First Click: 10 virtual reality experiences you can try this weekend

March 18th, 2016

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It’s been three years since we awarded a Frankensteined version of the Oculus Rift our best of CES 2013 award. Now, here we are in 2016, on the precipice of virtual reality becoming a true mainstream trend. This week Sony gave us final pricing and a release date for its much anticipated Playstation VR headset, giving us a near-complete picture of each competing VR platform. By October, all three major VR headset makers will have launched retail versions: Oculus Rift on March 28th, HTC Vive on April 5th, and the PSVR in October. Shortly after Christmas we’ll know how early adopters are drawing their allegiances in a three-way battle for VR dominance that’ll be played out over the next few years.

Even as we wait, we have Google Cardboard, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear VR, and plenty of 360-degree material to keep us spinning around in our swivel chairs for hours. Nobody knows VR like The Verge's Adi Robertson, so here's a list of her 10 recommendations for you to explore this weekend. All are free and work with both iOS and Android devices unless otherwise noted.

@MichelleObama (iOS | Android)

Our exclusive virtual reality interview with First Lady Michelle Obama on how she mastered social media. It's our first ever 360 video and a glimpse at how storytelling will evolve with VR.

  • Android + YouTube (Can be watched with or without Cardboard, in either VR or 360-degree video); iPhone + YouTube (360-degree video only)

Sonar (iOS | Android)

A six-minute horror short about a spacefaring vessel that finds something terrible beneath the surface of an asteroid, Sonar slowly builds a creepy sci-fi atmosphere that culminates in a grand, surreal, and enigmatic climax.

  • Android + YouTube (Can be watched with or without Cardboard, in either VR or 360-degree video); iPhone + YouTube (360-degree video only)

Special Delivery (iOS | Android)

Part of Google’s Spotlight Stories series, Christmas-themed Special Delivery features a ‘60s-infused Pink Panther-esque vibe and lots of visual Easter eggs that encourage watching it more than once.

  • Android + YouTube (Can be watched with or without Cardboard, in either VR or 360-degree video); iPhone + YouTube (360-degree video only)

Cardboard Crash (iOSAndroid)

Starting out as a cute animated story about a cardboard family driving through a cardboard world, Cardboard Crash soon turns into an interesting interactive commentary about the ethics of programming self-driving cars.

  • Android or iOS, Cardboard headset.

Vrse (iOS | Android)

Studio Vrse.works produces some of the best-known and best-edited virtual reality shorts, including its new mini-documentary My Mother’s Wing, about a mother in Gaza who lost two sons in an Israeli air strike.

  • Android or iOS, Google Cardboard for VR, phone only for non-VR.

Proton Pulse (iOS | Android)

Every new gaming medium needs a version of Brickbreaker, and Proton Pulse fills that niche for virtual reality. Use your face to deflect a flying energy ball over the course of 50 levels.

  • $1.99 for Android, $2.99 for iOS.

Google Cardboard (OS | Android)

Why: This is the core introduction to Google Cardboard, featuring a few demos and, on Android, a viewer for your videos or Photo Spheres and a version of Google Earth. There’s also a new introductory experience featuring an adorable low-poly Arctic fox.

  • Android or iOS, Cardboard headset.

NYT VR (iOS | Android)

Lots of outlets (including The Verge!) have gotten into 360-degree and VR video, but the The New York Times has gone deepest, publishing everything from documentaries to commentary on the 2016 campaign trail and a music video from Run the Jewels. It’s free for everyone, not just subscribers.

  • Android or iOS, Google Cardboard for VR, phone only for non-VR.

A Chair in a Room (Android)

Supernatural mystery story Chair in a Room is a better-than-usual version of the classic "VR jump scare" experience, putting you in a decrepit old house with limited battery life and some malevolent things in the shadows. An HTC Vive expansion, called *Chair in a Room: Greenwater*, is coming later this year.

  • Android + Google Cardboard.

VR Roller Coaster (Android)

VR is great for simulating tense, visceral experiences like a roller coaster ride. VR Roller Coaster gives you two rides to choose from, both full of intense loops and slow, tension-building climbs. It’s Android-only, but searching "VR roller coaster" on both Google Play and the iTunes App Store will turn up plenty of similar experiences, too.

  • Android + Google Cardboard.

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