How to Watch VR Videos

There are several ways you can watch VR videos based on which device you have.

 Mobile  mobile 360 vr video

Most VR videos can be watched using just a smartphone where you pan and tilt the phone to explore the full sphere of content. Find videos on the YouTube app.

 Some videos can actually be watched on mobile browsers instead of an app Ensure you have the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc. downloaded.

 Desktop vr video on laptop

You can also view on desktop by clicking and dragging the mouse around the content.


Google Cardboard

You can fully immerse yourself by viewing VR videos using VR headsets.

An easy way to do this is to get a Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR device. This allows you to place your phone into a VR headset to view 360° content. It’s a cheaper alternative to buying more involved VR devices, like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

One middle ground option is to get an Oculus Go or Oculus Quest. Priced at a few hundred dollars, you can view 360° videos within the VR interface, whether through YouTube or even on Oculus’ Facebook app, which has large communities posting 3D Photos and 360° photos and videos.

Major players in Virtual Reality: Oculus, HTC, Sony

As of the end of 2018, the three best selling Virtual Reality headsets were Sony’s PlayStation VR (PSVR), Facebook’s Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. This was not a surprise, seeing as the same three HMDs had also been best sellers in 2017. 2019 sees the VR landscape broadening with Google, HP, Lenovo, and others looking to grab a piece of the still-burgeoning market.

Here’s a look at 2019’s major VR hardware manufacturers and the devices they are manufacturing:

Oculus Rift, Oculus Rift S, Oculus Go, Oculus Quest

Originally funded as a Kickstarter project in 2012, and engineered with the help of John Carmack (founder of Id Software, of Doom and Quake fame), Oculus became the early leader in Virtual Reality hardware for video games. Facebook bought Oculus in 2014, and brought the company’s high-end VR HMD to market for consumers. More recently, Oculus has seen success with the lower-price, lower-powered Oculus Go, and 2019 will see the release of multiple new iterations on the hardware, including the tethered Rift S and the stand-alone Oculus Quest.

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift S

Oculus Go

Oculus Quest

HTC Vive, HTC Vive Pro Eye, HTC Cosmos, HTC Focus, HTC Plus

The HTC Vive has been one of the best VR HMDs on the market since its consumer release back in 2016. Manufactured by HTC, the Vive was the first VR HMD to support SteamVR. The Vive has been locked in fierce competition with the Oculus Rift since release, as both headsets aimed at the same top end of the VR enthusiast market. The Vive has proven itself a durable workhorse for enterprise solutions, while also delivering one of the best consumer VR experiences available. The Vive was first released back in 2016, and has gone through several iterations, with the addition of a wireless module. The Vive Pro came out in 2018 and the Vive Pro Eye and the HTC Vive Cosmos are both slated for release in the second half of 2019.

HTC Vive

HTC Vive Pro

HTC Vive Pro Eye

HTC Vive Cosmos

Sony’s PSVR

Sony’s entry into the market is the lowest powered of the three best-selling VR HMDs, but the PSVR has a big advantage over the Rift and Vive. Because it’s tethered to the Playstation 4 gaming system, there was an enormous, pre-existing user base of 10s of millions of gamers, many of whom were eager to try their hand at VR. Because that user base already had a PS4, Sony’s customers didn’t have to purchase/upgrade their computer hardware, making the PSVR the most “affordable” of the high-end HMDs. As such, the PSVR is the best-selling Virtual Reality HMD on the market, moving over 4 million units since its initial release, and showing that, if nothing else, VR gaming is here to stay.

PlayStation VR

HMD + Smartphone Virtual Reality

There’s a second class of Virtual Reality HMD that is really just a shell with special lens that pairs with a smartphone to deliver a VR experience. These devices can sell for almost nothing (and are often given away free), and deliver a scaled down VR experience that still approaches the immersive experiences generated by much-more expensive hardware.

Samsung Gear VR

Google Daydream View

Additional VR HMDs that pair with Smartphones:

Mattel View-Master VR

Archos VR Glasses 2

Fiit VR 2S

Meet The Virtual Newcomers/Lesser Known Manufacturers

Additional VR HMDs made by companies both big and small are now hitting the market, making up for a lack of pedigree in the space with impressive tech specs and lower price points. It remains to be seen if any of these “second tier” options have the juice to break through and become a leader in the VR space.

HP ReverbVR

Lenovo Mirage Solo

Pimax 8K

Pimax 5K Plus

Pico G2 & G2 4K

Pansonite, GenBasic, StarVR and more

Even more VR HMDS

Here’s the most well known Mixed Reality HMDs:

Microsoft HoloLens

Magic Leap One

Vuzix Blade

How Virtual Reality is being used today

Unsurprisingly, the video games industry is one of the largest proponents of Virtual Reality. Support for the Oculus Rift headsets has already been jerry-rigged into games like Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto, but newer games like Elite: Dangerous come with headset support built right in. Many tried-and-true user interface metaphors in gaming have to be adjusted for VR (after all, who wants to have to pick items out of a menu that takes up your entire field of vision?), but the industry has been quick to adapt as the hardware for true Virtual Reality gaming has become more widely available.

Virtual Reality and data visualization

Scientific and engineering data visualization has benefited for years from Virtual Reality, although recent innovation in display technology has generated interest in everything from molecular visualization to architecture to weather models.

VR for aviation, medicine, and the military

In aviation, medicine, and the military, Virtual Reality training is an attractive alternative to live training with expensive equipment, dangerous situations, or sensitive technology. Commercial pilots can use realistic cockpits with VR technology in holistic training programs that incorporate virtual flight and live instruction. Surgeons can train with virtual tools and patients, and transfer their virtual skills into the operating room, and studies have already begun to show that such training leads to faster doctors who make fewer mistakes. Police and soldiers are able to conduct virtual raids that avoid putting lives at risk.

Virtual Reality and the treatment of mental illness

Speaking of medicine, the treatment of mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder, stands to benefit from the application of Virtual Reality technology to ongoing therapy programs. Whether it’s allowing veterans to confront challenges in a controlled environment, or overcoming phobias in combination with behavioral therapy, VR has a potential beyond gaming, industrial and marketing applications to help people heal from, reconcile and understand real-world experiences.

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