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Best Google Cardboard apps: Top games and demos for your mobile VR headset

While the likes of Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus are making the most noise about their VR experiences, Google Cardboard and its apps offer the easiest way to experience virtual reality today.

Cardboard consists of a low-cost, DIY virtual reality headset that anyone can build, and a software platform that makes it incredibly easy for app developers to add VR support to their creations.

The platform was recently updated at Google I/O 2015; an all-new Cardboard design, with an easier three-step assembly procedure, a better control button and support for bigger smartphones – up to 6-inches – was all revealed, as was the news that the platform will extend to iPhones.

You can buy a headset from DodoCase, or the likes of the Archos VR Headset and the Carl Zeiss VR One which do the same thing – creating a virtual reality experience with your smartphone to power the visuals. Look for the Works with Cardboard badge.

Once you’ve got your headset set up, you’ll want some experiences to test out. Here’s our pick of the ten best VR-enabled apps you can find in Google Play right now….

Fancy having a little look around the solar system without leaving your living room? That’s possible with this app, which takes you on a scaled down (1:1000000) tour around space, complete with 3D models and to-scale distances between planets and moons.

You can control the speed of the tour using either a Bluetooth control pad, or simply by looking and selecting menu buttons, and there’s also a premium add-on that adds 50 minutes of narration.

Beautiful, poignant and possibly the best VR app so far, this wartime experience – based on the BBC series of the same name – takes you back to the battlefields of the Somme in 1916. You’re treated to a reading of Siegfried Sassoon’s controversial poem ‘The Kiss’, all the while surrounded by an incredible depiction of the horror – at one point you can even follow a bullet in slow motion as it strikes down a soldier.

It’s a shame there’s only the one poem available right now, let’s hope an update lands soon.

Fancy standing on the stage while the White Stripes frontman does his thing? That’s exactly what this app does, with footage from all angles of Jack’s performance of ‘Freedom At 21’ and ‘Ball and Biscuit’ at The Bleacher Theater in Boston, and ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground’ from the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison.

You can look anywhere you want – at the audience, at individual band members, at Jack White himself, the sky – it’s as if you were there. But with no chance of being hit with a cup of urine.

Chris Milk worked with visual effects specialist Digital Domain, acclaimed film production company Annapurna Pictures/VRSE.farm and VR production company VRSE.works, to create this photo-realistic CGI rendered, 3D VR film that takes the viewer on a journey from one new beginning to another.

You start off at a beautiful lake where you watch a swarm of dragon flies do their things and then things get a bit trippy. We won’t spoil the ending.

A must download for anyone wanting a bit of VR culture in their lives, Orbulus brings the work of the Photo Sphere community to life, putting you dead centre of some incredible landscapes and venues. You start off in outer space and select an orb that you like the look of – simply by holding your gaze on it.

You’re then placed where the photographer was but, rather than seeing a flat image, you are presented with their location around you, whether that be a city by night or an art gallery by day, in 360 degree glory.

Want to test drive the Volvo XC90 without leaving your house? Sure you do and that’s where this app comes in. The result of partnership between the Swedish car giant, R/GA and VFX-studio Framestore, it’s the focal point – quite literally – of the new SUV and packs in a trio of experiential videos.

Friday Getaway is our favourite – it kicks off on a track and within minutes you’re zooming through mountains and fields. What’s more, it works on any day of the week.

It would be amiss not to give an early mention to the official Google Cardboard app in this list. As well as teaching you the basics of virtual reality, it lets you fly around in Google Earth, take a Street View tour, examine a series of tribal masks, watch YouTube videos on a giant screen, enjoy a short animation of a mouse on a windy day and watch 360-degree video.

But the best feature is the ability to view photospheres captured with your smartphone’s camera. By stitching together a series of photos taken in every direction, you can create a panorama that you can enjoy in your headset.

There are relatively few virtual reality apps that use your smartphone camera to layer things on the world around you, but the best so far is Glitcher. It lets you superimpose nine different filters on the camera input, including selective colour, edge detection and Predator vision.

But the most impressive feature is voice control. Use the magnet switch and speak commands to flip between filters, record video, take photographs and even activate the flashlight. If you don’t yet own a VR headset, you can also activate a non-VR preview by pressing the volume down button.

You can’t have a VR app roundup without including one roller coaster themed one can you? The pick of a very big bunch is this one, which adds beautiful jungle scenery – and some water travel – to the equation as well.

First published on
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