The weird, wonderful and wacky ways VR is being used

Anyone for darts?

VR is attempting to take the gaming world by storm, and while you'll see rigs at events and increasingly in people's living rooms, the immersive tech is spreading its wings further.

We've been on the lookout for, and in some cases tried out, some of the more wacky uses of the latest VR headsets. Here's what we found...  

Rack 'em up

There is a small, old pub in England. Actually, there are a lot of small, old pubs in England, but one dinky drinker in particular piqued the interest of the HTC Vive team. 

The George is a pub in Soho, London and it’s been there since 1727. It’s a cozy local boozer, but there’s certainly no space for a pool table – a fact which the Vive social team spotted on Twitter and decided to jump on.

Cue old blokes, pints in hand, enjoying a leisurely game of VR pool and virtual reality darts while discussing the finer details of the Brexit strategy. 

It's odd, but we kinda like it. We do wonder how long it takes before this happens.

Vive is a costly addition to any bar, and the logistics of expensive tech and alcohol will be a tricky one to navigate - but it's something we will see a lot more of in the future.

A company called SplitVR is opening a VR gaming bar in Budapest in January 2017 - so while this more rudimentary use of VR in a London pub won't be a permanent feature, looking ahead we could see it develop into something more user (and booze) friendly.

Rebuilding the past

When Mosul Museum was destroyed by terrorists in February 2015 an iconic landmark was lost - but the museum and its exhibits live on thanks to virtual reality.

You can now visit the museum, home to some of Iraq's most important cultural artifacts, from anywhere in the world with the help of a VR headset.

We took a virtual tour using a Samsung Gear VR, and were guided round the exhibits with a voice over explaining each one as we passed.

You don't get control over where you go, and the rendering isn't photo-realistic, but it opens the door to exploring other lost places from history and that's pretty exciting.

Strap in

In the future you won't walk into a car dealership, you'll simply turn to your partner on the sofa, say 'darling shall we buy a car' and slip on a VR headset.

It may sound unlikely, and we were just as skeptical until Jaguar invited us to the launch of its all electric I-Pace

Instead of a car, a HTC Vive headset and remote greeted us upon arrival at the event. Popping the headset on we were treated to a live presentation, with real people, who talked us through, and showed us round the new car. 

And then... we were IN the car. Sitting there in the driver's seat, we wanted to grab the wheel and plant our foot on the accelerator. What actually happened is we nearly fell off our chair until realizing we should perhaps just calm down a bit. 

Looking around and we got an instant feel for the size and space inside the cabin. We then moved to the back seats to enjoy the leg room and view out of the panoramic roof. 

It's the next best thing to actually getting into a real car and we want to be able to do this in every car right now. 

It doesn't stop with simple demos like this, as Jaguar revealed that it now develops all its cars in VR, as it gives designers and engineers a much more detailed look and feel over every aspect of the vehicle. 

It's early days, but this is going to be big.

Mind controlled movies

How about this for a weird and wonderful use of VR. The folks at MyndPlay have enlisted the help of the Oculus Rift and a brainwave monitoring Electroencephalogram (EEG) headset to allow you to direct your own movie.

We strapped the kit on to create our own cut of the the latest X-Men film using nothing more than mere brain power.

Concentrating on certain characters can see the movie shift its focus to feature more of that person for example, purely by working out what is interesting you on-screen.

Jackpot!

Feeling lucky, but can't quite afford a trip to Vegas? Fear not, because with the help of VR you can bring Vegas to your front room. 

Online gambling site SlotsMillion has created a VR casino which we experienced via an Oculus Rift headset and found a setup complete with bar, smoldering cigars, VIP lounge and a cityscape view from a lofty balcony. 

The casino itself is full of video slot machines offering up well-known titles from the gambling sphere, although the 2D games you play when sitting at a machine aren’t as immersive as we hoped. 

This is just the first iteration though, with fully immersive, 3D slot machines and table games (Roulette, Poker etc) planned to enter the VR casino in the near future.

It’s not just your usual casino fodder that you’ll be able to gamble your cash on though. 

CEO of Alea.com – the firm behind SlotsMillions’ VR offering - Alexandre Tomic revealed to TechRadar that he plans to introduce a new style of social gambling using escape room-style challenges to pits your wits against others.

For now though you'll have to make do with the slot machines... or, you know, a trip to Vegas.

Changing the world for good

Voices of the Favela is a VR experience that combines 360-degree documentary footage with a Google Streetview-like interface. 

It lets you walk the streets of Gereba - a favela outside of Fortaleza, Brazil - and meet the inhabitants, moving from location to location and hearing the stories of the people who live there.

It's just the latest in a long line of similar projects, all of which have the same goal in common - to evoke empathy for those depicted - showing the world that they're real people, not just distant statistics. 

With nationalism and bigotry rising once again around the world, the time is right for new ways to break down people's prejudices. An effective, affordable 'ultimate empathy machine' could genuinely change the world.

Virtual reality still has serious hurdles to jump before it can take on that role, but the early signs are good.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phones, Tablets and Wearables UK Editor

John (Twitter, Google+) got his first phone aged 12 and since then he's been fixated on all things mobile, churning his way through a multitude of handsets, tablets and wearables. Signalling his arrival at TechRadar by becoming a Guinness World Record holder in his first week, John hasn't looked back since.