According to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who paid a whopping $2bn (£1.2bn) for virtual reality firm Oculus in 2014, VR is the future.
“Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming and we have a chance to build it together.”
Though still early days, several virtual reality headsets are now on the market including the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR (also developed in collaboration with Oculus). Also available is the HTC Vive which has now been reduced in price by £200 to £399 in the UK.
Recently announced at an Oculus Developer conference was a new VR model, Oculus Go. Available from next year, this won’t require a phone or a computer to function and will provide access to the same games and applications as the Samsung Gear VR.
Nor do you have to buy a VR headset to enjoy virtual reality. One alternative is to use a Google Cardboard headset which allows you to experience basic VR on your smart phone for a fraction of the price of a bespoke headset.
But how can you use VR? Here we look at five of the most interesting applications of the technology that are available right now (though there are many more).
OK it’s not quite the same as exploring the world for yourself but it’s probably the next best thing. Now available on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, Google Earth VR lets you walk or even fly around the globe.
For example, you can stroll the streets of Tokyo, look down from the Seattle Space Needle or soar over Yosemite national park.
Want to experience a little bit of what it’s like to be in the most famous recording studio of the world?
Using Google Cardboard with either the Inside Abbey Road app for Android or Apple iPhone you can take a tour of London’s Abbey Road Studio where The Beatles famously recorded back in the 1960s and more recently where Amy Winehouse, Adele and Oasis all performed tracks.
3. Virtual casinos
While there’s nothing quite like a real casino to make you feel like James Bond or Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, virtual casinos do come pretty darned close.
Using a VR headset you can play slots, table games or even poker as if you are inside a real casino. A number of betting companies now offer Casino Virtual Reality, including William Hill, Slots Million and comeon!
4. Oculus Videos
Enjoy videos on a screen in your own virtual movie theatre. Available for Gear VR and Oculus Rift, Oculus Video lets you watch Facebook 360 videos, Twitch, Vimeo, and your own movie files in a completely new and immersive way.
In addition to a standard movie theatre, you can choose from different VR environments including a phone in the forest, and even the surface of the moon with lights from the movie screen bouncing off moon rocks all around you!
YouTube’s official VR channel features the latest and some of the best 360 degree videos made in VR.