In the modern world we are always switched on, always connected, always on the move. In many ways technology has shrunken the world and brought us closer together, but it’s also made it harder to detach from the stresses of life. At one time in the not too distant past, you only got the news three times a day. Once in the morning paper, once on the evening news and once again on the late night news if you stayed up to watch it. Generally, leaving work at 5pm meant leaving work behind until the next day, and a discussion of politics was an occasional and invigorating event among friends.
Thanks to technology, we have access to news twenty four hours a day as it happens and it seems to be either bad news or entirely inane. Work can not only reach you at home but anywhere you happen to be, and often you are connected enough to drop everything and do what needs to be done right where you are. Political discussions have given way to the incessant background noise of constant political disagreement. As wonderful as technology is, these and many other aspects of it, can make life more stressful and so it is no wonder that people want to switch off and reconnect with nature or themselves. For this, many turn to meditation retreats.
When I think of meditation retreat I imagine a group of people in a fancy resort-like setting with a spa and a lawn peppered with white fountains where you meditate at your leisure and make good friends. This is not necessarily the case. In fact, in researching this article I’ve yet to come across a single retreat that offers these things. Instead, meditation retreats seem to be strictly regimented, silent affairs where even eye contact is forbidden. There may be some yoga, but the point of the retreat is to spend time in your own mind, so most of your day will be spent in non-optional meditation in a room with everyone else.
For the intense and/or religious meditation practitioners these retreats are probably just fine. But for the rest of us, the ones who don’t want to live like a monk for a month, virtual reality may be the answer. While trying to replace a month long meditation retreat with current virtual reality technology is probably not a good idea, if not entirely impossible, that doesn’t mean virtual reality has nothing to offer. With virtual reality you could set up a mini retreat right in your own home, one that you can squeeze into your busy schedule without taking a sabbatical.
Virtual Reality can take you out of your environment and place you anywhere that can be displayed on a screen. You are not limited to what is physically possible. You can float through the clouds, meditate on the moon, and drift gently under the ocean while watching the fishes. You could even be a disembodied something floating among wisps of light. That’s the great thing about virtual reality, it can put you anywhere that the developer can imagine.
When you think of virtual reality you might think only about the headset, but virtual reality is already far more encompassing than that and will only get more so as time goes on. Already we have spatial audio and on some virtual reality devices, tracked controllers that put our hands in the virtual world in addition to the headset. This means that virtual reality can replace your world with another one. One that you can hear and interact with. When done well it becomes very convincing.
Currently meditation and relaxation applications are most widespread on the Samsung Gear VR. While this limits their immersive qualities, it does make them portable and available whenever you need them. Simply pop your phone into your headset and throw on some headphones and you will find yourself on a beach, or in a forest where you can take the time you need to draw in your thoughts, concentrate on your breathing and relax. This can even be done as a short meditation retreat during your lunch break while still leaving you enough time to eat or to unwind when you get home from work (even if it means sneaking into the washroom to do it.)
As VR develops virtual meditation retreats could become much different. Those who are developing virtual reality technology say that the end goal is something like the holodeck from Star Trek. In case you are not familiar, the holodeck is a room that creates virtual environments that are indistinguishable from the real thing. Some say that we could have something very close, minus the ability to touch the holograms, by 2024. Assuming that the tech becomes available eventually, even if not by 2024, you could conceivably have an entire proper meditation retreat without leaving your home.
Holodecks are a long way off. The tech we have right now will allow for short relaxing respites away from the hustle and never-ending bustle of modern life and, for most of us, that’s all we can afford anyway. If used daily the benefits from short virtual reality meditation sessions would have a greater impact than a retreat that is completed and then abandoned. It also won’t break the bank. Plus, let’s be realistic, when the holodeck technology comes about, if history is to be trusted, it will recreate your office at home, so you never have to leave.
Be careful what you wish for.June 29, 2016
Stress is a part of life. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, whether you’re a student trying to pass your classes, a homemaker trying to make sure that your household doesn’t fall apart, or a CEO tasked with ensuring your shareholders are earning a profit. What causes you stress may be different, but the chemicals are the same.
There are many ways to deal with stress when it comes on. You can take a warm bath, drink tea, go for a walk or try some deep breathing. All of these will help to reduce stress in the moment, but if you find that stress is something that you are dealing with on a regular basis or is getting out of hand, then you may want to try mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the here and now with openness and curiosity. Most of us tend to be pre-occupied with the past or the future and spare very little time for the moment we are in. Studies have been done that show mindfulness meditation can have a lasting positive impact on mental health if practiced regularly.
Mindfulness, like any other discipline, requires practice. Perhaps the easiest way to get into mindfulness meditation is to download one of the many apps that are available on your favourite app store. There are many different versions but they all generally tend to give guided meditations, offer some way to keep track of your meditations and encourage you to keep going. The best ones tend to be paid, or at least have a paid component, but there are free ones too.
If you have access to a Gear VR, you have even more options. Obviously, with a Samsung device being required to power the headset, you have access to all of the apps on the Play Store, but you also have access to the ones on the Oculus store. And there are a surprising number of them. And as with the non-VR apps, they tend to offer guided meditations, but they also offer new environments, which when done well can really increase your relaxation and meditation experience. Having your view blocked out and replaced with serene locations enhances your ability to not become distracted by the world around you. With headphones on the immersion is even greater. Sometimes it isn’t even a real environment, but rather just black space and something to focus on, or an animation that follows your breathing to make it almost feel like you are really breathing something different, something calming.
If you have an Oculus Rift you are out of luck at the moment as there are no apps specifically designed for mindfulness. There are applications that could be relaxing, such as Ocean Rift or Titans of Space, but they might not be great for mindfulness meditation since there are things going on inside them that will draw your attention and they do not offer guided meditation. However, Rift is still new so there is still plenty of time for meditation apps to arrive.
The HTC Vive fares better in this space. Being powered by SteamVR it has a more open market place than the Rift so that might explain why that is the case, but whatever the reason there are several VR meditation apps for the Vive. These are going to provide the best possible experience at the moment as the Vive is powered by a PC and allows for a much larger play space and hand tracking. Though these last two points aren’t going to play a big role in meditation apps, anything that increases your presence in the virtual world will help you to be less distracted and more able to focus on your mindfulness. It’s hard to focus on your breathing when all you can think about is the world juddering around you or things popping into and out of existence.
Mindfulness mediation may seem to some like hokey, new age nonsense, and if you’re not into new age stuff then some of it will probably seem that way to you. But science seems to indicate that taking the time to focus on the moment is highly beneficial. It also indicates that virtual reality can be a great tool for being distracted from outside influences. As long as the virtual environment that you select is peaceful and doesn’t add to distraction then you should find that meditation in VR is as easy or easier than it is in real life. In fact, I work from home and today my son is home from school which means extra noise in the house. So I am finishing this article in my Oculus Rift using a program called Big Screen and some non-distracting music. It has been very helpful in keeping my mind on task and I think it would do just as well if I were meditating.June 28, 2016
We love the HTC Vive here at VR Cover because it is great to work with. The removable foam pad and the velcro below helps us to make our VR Cover sit well and we are happy to introduce our first own HTC Vive Foam Replacement today.
This high quality pu leather foam replacement for the HTC Vive brings you closer to the action while still being comfortable.
It is a bit less comfortable compared to the original HTC Vive foam padding but you are closer to the lenses of your headset and therefore experience an increased field of view. A lot of people love this because virtual reality experiences can feel more immersive with a bigger field of view.
As an added benefit the soft and durable pu leather on this foam replacement is easy to clean with antibacterial wipes (we recommend non alcoholic wipes because they are better for the skin). It still feels great on your skin and is perfect for more active VR experiences that might make you sweat.Get Your HTC Vive Foam Replacement NowJune 28, 2016
Life is a wonderful, precious gift. A miracle and a mystery all at the same time. Why are we here? Where did we come from? Most of all, why is it so boring?
Every day you wake up, like the day before. You brush your teeth (we hope), and isn’t that the same toothpaste as yesterday? You catch up on the news or Facebook (this is a euphemism for going to the bathroom, while at the same time being an apt description of what is happening in there) just like yesterday and every day before. Then you go to work and fight to keep awake as you do that same boring old thing you’ve done day in and day out since the beginning of time! Or so it feels, amirite?
Well thank goodness that Virtual Reality (VR to those in the know) has finally arrived and thanks to this wonderous technology you may never have to endure the unbearable ennui of that other VR… Vanilla Reality. I just made that up. Pretty good isn’t? It’s better in Virtual Reality.
Because we are so accustomed to our workaday lives we may find it difficult to fully appreciate all that VR has to offer. So we’ve put on our thinking caps and come up with ten, non-standard, anything but boring, ways to use VR. The very idea that virtual reality could become common and stagnant seems utterly presposterous, but nevertheless, we feel you should get up off your couch once in a while and take full advantage of this wonderous new technology.
Without further ado, or trips to the thesaurus, here is a list of ten ways to enjoy VR!
1. Together In Bed
Let’s face it. Bed’s are boring. The same dull thing night after night after night. No doubt you lay in bed staring at your loved one thinking, “how long can I endure this monotony?” But what if you weren’t laying in your bed staring into the near comatose eyes of your significant other? What if you were instead staring into the pixelated eyes of a Creeper who was about to blow you to smitherenes? Or what if your bed was actually some sort of space ferry that could fly and deliver cargo around an alien planet? Would you be bored then? I think not. Just make sure that you and you’re now enthused loved one don’t smash your headsets together in your newfound childlike vigour.
2. While in the Bathtub
Well here we are again. Another Wednesday, another bath night. Yawn. But wait! This time will be different. This time you are armed with your Gear VR and a copy of Ocean Rift. Feel the sensation of water on you body as your eyes feel the sensation of virtual water in your magic goggles of wonder and enchantment! Was that a shark? Was it a whale? No! It was an adorable Sea lion. Reach out and pet it. Augh! Immersion destoryed. No hands in mobile VR yet. Forget I said that reach out and pet it part. Rewind. It’s an adorable sea lion. Look, but don’t touch please. He will eat you if you move. Just remember that actually submerging your head while in VR is a bad idea unless you hate VR and love destroying expensive electronics.
3. During your commute
You’re on the bus, or the train, or riding shotgun in the carpool on your way to work. Regardless of the actual situation you are thinking to yourself, “how did I end up here? I had such big dreams! Can’t I start again?” No! Of course not! Don’t be ridiculous. Instead, pull out your VR goggles, pop in your smartphone and become someone else, somewhere else. You’re not boring old you driving to your hum-drum job, you’re a secret agent in training, using a jetpack to fly over the city blasting robots. Or maybe you’re piloting a spacecraft taking out alien scum and saving the universe. Thanks to virtual reality, the dreams of your youth now seem too small. And also you want to throw up.
4. In Bed, But By Yourself
Maybe you don’t share your bed with anyone. If that’s the case there is no one to complain when you don your VR goggles, head into a deep cave in Minecraft, and toss your blankets over your head to get that full immersion. No more burying yourself in tears of boredom. Now you can bury yourself in amazement thanks to virtual reality.
5. Walking your Dog
Every dog owner knows that if you go anywhere near the dog’s leash he will go crazy. Walking is exciting when you’re a simple animal whose hobbies include sleeping, eating and sniffing butts. But for us more complex creatures walking can be an excercise in tedium and ho-hummery. Why not turn your daily walk into an event worthy of a full body tail wag by bringing your VR along? Use the pass through camera to add a tiny amount of lag to your life. Who needs alcohol now? And depth perception? You had that since you were a baby. Now you can find out what life is like in glorious 2D. You’ll be asking yourself, is this what it’s like to live in a movie? And of course it isn’t, but what fun to think about such things instead of just waiting for the dog to poop!
6. At The Dinner Table
Back in the olden days, before VR, you used to have to endure eating meals with the same people up to three times a day. Someday, when VR is as ubiquitous as today’s cellular telephones, I’m convinced that those days will be dubbed The Dark Ages: Part Deux. But you don’t have to wait for that. With modern VR and hand tracked controllers you can not only eat with whomever you please, you can eat whatever you please. Not impressed with the Brussels sprouts served by your mom? Throw on your headset and suddenly you are eating pizza served to you by that favourite actress of yours, or a creepy, lifeless computer simulated version of her… but we’ll get there. We’ll get there.
7. While on the toilet
As mentioned in the introduction, no one just goes to the toilet anymore. Can you be any more 1990’s? But how many more times can you read inspid Facebook updates from people who think their ham sandwich is newsworthy? Oculus claims their product is focused on seated experiences. Sounds like a match made in heaven to me. Just plug your computer into the outlet in the washroom (sorry UK folks, maybe get an extension cord?) and suddenly the toilet can be anything. Maybe it’s a throne you sit upon and command a kingdom. Or a seat on a rocket ship as you experience the moon landing (or should I say “moon landing”? Am I right, YouTube?) As a bonus, if you’re having a bit of trouble with the works, you can always play one of the many horror experiences and scare the sh… well, get things moving.
8. At The Dentist
Dentists would be boring of they weren’t so terrifying. They put on a good show of being a part of modern medicine, but when it’s time to go to work they pick up the same tools the dinosaurs used for torture and then you, for some reason, let them stick those tools in your mouth and hurt you for 45 minutes. A recent study that may or may not be real, recently concluded that people who wear VR while having dental work done are total nerds. It’s also been said* that VR at the dentist can reduce anxiety and even pain. There aren’t many apps that work well in a reclined position, but there are video apps that will work so maybe you can find a documentary about clowns and be reminded that dentists are not the scariest thing out there.
9. During Boring Meetings
What happens at a meeting? You sit around a table, listening to some white-haired old guy point at some pictures and say things like synergistic, value added this, coversion opportunities that. At least I think that’s what happens. I don’t go to meetings. But you don’t have to go to meetings to know that they are boring and in need of some VR. Let everyone else sit around that table wondering what the heck oldylocks is talking about and you kick back at the beach, listening to the water as is laps against the shore. Best part, no sunburns and no seagull poop.
10. On A Rollercoaster
If you’ve ever been on a roller coaster you are probably aware that they can put you to sleep slightly faster than strong cough syrup. Up the hill, down the hill then up the hill again. Seriously? Didn’t we just do this? Oh look a loop! Nice try! That’s just a really steep hill. ks;fghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… Sorry about that. I just feel asleep on my keyboard from thinking about a rollercoaster. If the idea of being at the top of a high hill looking over the boring old earth yet again has you wanting to rest your head on the pad of the bell ringing game while Mr. Muscles gives it his best shot, then I have good news! VR can help here as well. In fact, the good folks at Six Flags are riding my wavelength and have tackled this problem head on by adding VR to some of their snorecoasters. (Totally just made that up too. I’m on fire!) Pilot a fighter jet as you defend the earth from an alien invasion or cheer on Superman as he deals with yet another mess from that scoundrel, Lex Luthor. Either way it’s better than looking at the tops of stupid old trees.
Well there you have it. Ten ways that VR can make this dull, drab existence we call life a little bit more palatable. These ideas are just to get your brain juice pumping so that you can come up with more ideas of your own to improve your life with VR. Right now, VR technology is somewhat limited, but don’t worry! Someday we will be able to jack directly into the machine and create our existence on the fly. I suggest getting some good experiences now so that when that day comes you have something to draw on. Otherwise your created world will just be you riding a rollercoaster on the toilet, looking at pictures of ham sandwiches while some old dude drones on and on about actionable this and put-a-pin-in-it that. And no one wants that.June 22, 2016
Virtual Reality is in its infancy and there are a lot of things that will probably emerge in future headsets that we can only dream about now. If you’ve spent any amount of time in VR then you are probably with me in hoping that tiny little air conditioners inside the headset will be one of those things. But until then, sweat and VR are going to remain awkward bedfellows.
That being the case it would seem the only reasonable thing to do is sweat as much as you possibly can while using your VR. So slap on your VR Cover and dive into one of these games that through exertion wil turn your forehead into Niagra Falls
10. Dreadhalls – You are in a dungeon filled with terrifying creatures and eerie noises. You have an oil lamp and a map that doesn’t tell you where you’re going, but will tell you where you’ve been. All you have to do is find the exit. The problem is you have no defense against the creatures aside from running and barricading yourself in a room. Dreadhalls is out on the Rift and the Gear VR and while it’s seated experience, it is a genuinely frightening and intense experience that is very likely to make you sweat.
9. Skeet: VR Target Shooting – This game isn’t overly active, but having to manually pump your shotgun and aim your gun not with an analogue stick, but with your arms brings more activity to video games than most of us are used to.
8. Windlands – If you’ve ever dreamed about being Spiderman, but in nature instead of New York, then you will probably want to check out Windlands. On the Rift it’s a pretty laid back game that is unlikely to make you break a sweat, but load it up on the Vive and you may find yourself getting a little bit of a workout as you flail around trying to grapple the trees and make your way across the level. This is especially true if you turn your body rather than using the controller to turn.
7. Holopoint – Holopoint is a game where you are a Samurai with a bow and arrow. You shoot glowing blue cubes and they explode, sending a laser back at you that you have to dodge. After you’ve shot a few cubes, glowing blue samurai start to attack. There are even boss fights. By the time you are done playing this game your heart will be hammering and your pores gushing like you’ve just finishe Sweatin’ to the Oldies with Richard Simmons… or whatever you kids are doing at the gym these days.
6. Audioshield – Audioshield doesn’t task you with pretending to play an instrument, or even dancing. Instead, it has you using a coloured shield in each hand to block the corresponding coloured projectiles, all to the rhythm of the music. It’s possible that if you are smooth enough it may look like dancing, but smooth or not, you are going to sweat playing this game.
5. Waltz of the Wizard – As the guys from Tested say after playing this game, “VR gets fitness for free.” What they mean by that is games that you would not think of as being overly active experiences become a workout on the Vive simply because you have to move around to play them. You may not sweat profusely while playing this game, but you’ll stil make a mess of your foam.
4. Thrill Of The Fight – This one is a no brainer. It’s a boxing game in which you have to throw punches and block the punches of other players or dodge and weave to get out of the way. The only way this could be more of a work out is if you were in a real ring dodging real punches. You might be more motivated to exert yourself in that case.
3. Maximum Override VR – In Maximum Override VR you are a kaiju, or Japanese monster. A giant alien towering over the city and your job is to abduct a certain number of people, which you do by squashing them. Everything in the environment is destructable so you can fulfill your fantasies of knocking down buildings and just going on a rampage. Of course, rampaging is quite a workout and you’re bound to work up a sweat here.
2. Budget Cuts – In this game you’ve broken into a facility where you’ve applied for a job and you aim to approve your own job application. The trouble is, the facility is patrolled by murderous robots that will kill you on sight. Hopefully the job pays well. To get your application approved you will have to use your teleportation gun and any weapons you can find to either avoid or take out the robots. When you want to enter a cramped space or open a safe under a desk you will have to physically duck. To throw knives you will have to make throwing motions with the controller. All this activity, when combined with the summer heat, is sure to dampen your facial foam.
1. Hover Junkers – In Hover Junkers you are trying to survive by hovering over the surface of the planet on a ship and collecting junk that you use to fortify your ship or sell. There are other junk-collectors out there though and if you run into them you’ll have to take them out or be taken out by them. You have weapons but because this is VR you will need more than your thumbs to aim them. And if you want to duck behind cover you are going to have to actually duck behind cover. As these encounters are the main point of the game you can expect to be doing a lot of ducking, shooting and sweating.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is exhausting. That’s just a little workout joke. Anyway, playing any of these games is sure you leave you in a mess if you don’t take the proper precautions. Protecting your facial interface foam with a cover from VR Cover is the best place to start. Head over to our store to check out our various options.June 19, 2016