Twenty years ago, the term “virtual reality” sounded very futuristic. Now, your tween can probably provide you the lowdown. The most important thing you need to know is that virtual reality (VR) is now accessible not just to a chosen few, and it looks like it’s here to stay.
VR is simple: you put on a headset that places a little monitor in front of your eyes, and it allows you to view and interact with a three-dimensional world that you can see in 360 degrees.
The simplest way to experience VR is through a smartphone and a cardboard VR (Google Cardboard and I Am Cardboard that retails at less than P1,000. It’s available both online and in brick-and-mortar stores).
So what’s in store for your kids in VR? Most of the Cardboard-compatible apps are available on the Google Play Store for free. Here, we share nine of our favorite VR apps, chosen for their educational and entertainment value.
1. Titans of Space Cardboard VR
If your child dreams of signing up for space academy (no, we don't have one yet), this is the closest thing to it. He can visit all the planets of our solar system, including some of the larger moons, complete with on-screen trivia. You can also get the full voice-over package (additional P47), so your child can focus on admiring the beauty of outer space.
2. DinoTrek VR
Much like Titans of Space, this app lets your child run with the dinosaurs. Although relatively short, DinoTrek VR is very educational and fun. Think of it as a virtual tour where you get to mingle, fly, and run with the dinosaurs. Hopefully, seeing the dinosaurs in action will spark something in your future paleontologist.
Imagine you are a drone flying over an active volcano that allows you to see the rock formations and lava bubbling and erupting all around you. It has a pause feature that lets you look around and enjoy the fiery majesty of molten magma. Although it could use some background music or some voice-over narration, this is a good app to feed the curiosity of your future little volcanologist or seismologist. 4. Lamper VR
In Lamper VR, your kid gets to play as a little bug flying through obstacles of twigs, carnivorous plants, and spider webs. While dodging them, you have to collect little gold coins and fiery power-ups that will allow you to crash into the obstacles without harm. Designed more for young children, it’s a very entertaining game that practices hand-eye coordination. Yes, grown-ups may want to give this a go, too.
5. Crossy VR
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This is the VR version of the super cute Crossy Road game app. The objective is to move forward, one step at a time, while dodging traffic coming in from both left and right. It has a fairly simple gameplay, and kids can enjoy learning the most valuable lesson of looking both ways before crossing the street.
If your child loves space games, he can live out his dreams of becoming the best fighter pilot in the galaxy with this app. With stunning graphics and great vehicle designs straight out of Star Wars, this game is fairly simple and easy: all you have to do is point the crosshairs on an enemy spacecraft, and the laser cannons will start firing automatically. You’d also need to dodge enemy fire and asteroids trying to knock you off course.
7. InCell VR
Learning through play is the object of the game. Think Inside Out but more science-y. InCell VR allows you to learn a lot about the human body by being part of a project to cure a patient and where you "shrink" down to the cellular level. It's an awesome tool to learn about nuclei and mitochondria.
8. InMind VR
InMind VR lets you see inside the human brain. It has the same premise as InCell VR -- the only difference is the setting. As you learn about parts of the brain and neural connections, you get to shoot lasers at bad neurons and other foreign bodies. Never has learning about the mind been so fun and fascinating!
This is one of the best interactive VR apps for children, if you ask us. Your child plays as the little redhead boy Peronio, and he gets to learn about different professions to help him figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. For example, if he wants to be a chef, he gets to bake a cake (and clean up afterwards). The game is designed like a pop-up book, with each chapter introducing one profession. The first two chapters are free, and the rest you can purchase as add-ons.
There are other apps that can enhance your and your child’s VR experience, but some require a higher-priced VR headset, such as Oculus Rift, a company that already came out with Henry, an animated VR film for kids. Minecraft is also now available to play in VR via Samsung Gear VR. Disney, too, has a VR app on Steam, an online game platform, that contains all their VR movies (and yes, it has Star Wars, The Avengers and The Jungle Book!). These are all proof that VR is the future -- and the future is now!