Technology has taken a turn for the better in the past decade, with rapid advancements in gaming, films and devices. Summer holiday plans are canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s a temporary alternative to experience being outdoors again: virtual reality. Now you can attend some of the most exciting events worldwide, all online! Without further ado, here’s a list:
For the art-folk, Google Arts & Culture is a free online platform with content from over 2000 leading museums and archives, a project launched over a decade ago. Immerse yourself in the abundance of fine art pieces — accessible via the website on your laptop or phone, or, with the free app from the App Store or Google Play Store. Images of paintings can be zoomed in on for you to admire the delicate brushstrokes and textures. Viewers can bounce from country to country with a few clicks for a glimpse of cultural masterpieces from the Museum of Contemporary Art to the Guggenheim in Spain. Head to the virtual Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands. Here, you can take in over 160 artworks including the infamous Sunflowers and self-portraits.
YouTube’s Virtual Reality channel boasts an immersive collection of travels, from thrill-seeking race cars to having a boogie at a “live” concert. All the 360-degree panoramic videos are free and can be watched online via YouTube. But for the full experience, we recommend watching it through a Google Cardboard VR headset for a cinema-style mode. Try out some of the travel documentaries like “Solo to the South Pole” — it’s an expedition not many of us will be embarking on in our life, so here’s the next best alternative. What’s most exciting: the team brings you on the voyage, from packing your bags to flying to Antarctica so it feels like you’re on the trip from start to finish.
Penrose Studios’ VR film experience tells the story of a young girl, Allumette, and her mother, who live in a fantasy city in the clouds. The short film lasts only 20 minutes but chronicles a timeline of love, sacrifice and tragedy through an emotional journey with the characters. It can be downloaded for free on Windows 7, Steam and on Oculus, and watched through a VR headset.
If zombie- and alien-shooting doesn’t tickle your fancy, look away. Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx is a VR survival horror game where players control the main character, Alyx Vance, on a nearly impossible mission to seize a Combine superweapon. The graphics are incredible and will leave you feeling like you’ve just been on a heart-pounding adventure. The game is available on Steam for $258.
We know that traveling online isn’t quite the same as real life, but how about some travel inspo? Google Earth’s recently revamped virtual reality experience whisks you around the world. Control the view from aerial to satellite to the 3D street view with just a click. Fly or walk to the Grand Canyon to admire the spectacular views from any time of day (with a spin of the sun feature), or to New York’s Central Park for a bit of metropolitan life. Available for free on Google, Oculus and Steam.
Keep calm and listen to the narration of British naturalist Sir David Attenborough, in his VR collaboration with Sky network and London’s Natural History Museum. Hold the World lets you navigate the museum’s collection and examine artifacts and rare items, with the guidance of Attenborough. So, why not explore nature and history in the comfort of your own home? The educational virtual reality experience is available on Oculus Rift for only US$4.