The Samsung Gear VR is more than just another fancy gaming platform. Thanks to apps that can teach you another language, let you get up close and personal with marine life or put you at the top of Mount Everest, the headset is your portal to an ever-growing number of worlds. Unlike regular media, the Gear VR offers total immersion, making you an active participant in your new environment.
Credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide
Want to browse the Web, watch a movie with friends or learn a new language? The Apps section is a hodgepodge of helpful software.
You won't have the ability to watch House of Cards or Orange is the New Black with a 360-degree perspective, but watching Netflix on the Gear VR is fun nonetheless. Transforming your room into a private theater on a mountainside chalet, you'll be impressed by the sharp detail on some of your favorite series. Just don't forget the popcorn. Gamepad optional.
Now you can watch "The Mindy Project" and the latest episodes of "Arrow", "Empire" and "Blackish" in virtual reality. The app offers several different environments to indulge your inner couch potato including the beach, a movie theater and a swanky apartment. Hulu also gives viewers access to exclusive content from RocketJump, Showtime Sports and National Geographic. Gamepad optional.
Oculus Social (Free)
Who says that VR is a lonely man's game? Currently in the alpha phase of testing, Oculus Social lets a group of six chat and watch Twitch and Vimeo content in a virtual theater. When it launches, Samsung is hoping viewers will use the headset to watch live streams or television shows with friends and loved ones, no matter where they are physically. Headset only.
Who says virtual reality is a single-person experience? Thanks to AltspaceVR, you can meet up with friends in virtual bars, living rooms or space stations to have a friendly chat or round or two of air hockey. You can even catch a stand-up comedy show. But the app has a serious side, allowing business types to hold meetings complete with slideshow presentations.Gamepad optional.
Oculus Video (Free)
If you manage to exhaust Netflix's massive catalog, you can always check out Oculus Video, which includes original and user-generated content. Thanks to the partnership with Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox, you can rent or purchase such films as The Evil Dead and Pulp Fiction. Viewers searching for the next indie darling should feel free to search Vimeo’s vast library or catch a live stream from Twitch. Gamepad optional.
Samsung Internet (Free)
Currently in beta, Samsung Internet (SI) is a like a virtual-reality Minority Report. Instead of your usual series of browsers, SI relies on a series of floating panels to display your current or recent Web visits. And forget about typing in your searches; a simple "OK, Google," and you're off to the races. The tabs you're not using will be patiently waiting in the background and will come to the front with a simple look. Gamepad optional.
House of Languages (Free)
How do you say, "Pass me the popcorn" in German? Learn this and more in House of Languages, an educational app that can help you become fluent in German or Spanish. Incorporating 10 locations — such as the zoo, cafe or airport — the app will teach you words and phrases that you'd actually use in real-life conversations with your cute little virtual guide, Mr. Woo. Gamepad optional.
Ever wonder what it feels like to be in the middle of a protest in the heart of New York City? Now you can find out, sans the threat of arrest, with the Vrse app. Pulling from resources such as Vice News, Vrse is your one-stop shop for gritty on-the-scene reporting as well as viewing short independent films. This app is poised to become one of the leading methods of storytelling in the virtual space. Headset only.
Speech Center VR (Free)
Standing behind a podium in a crowded conference room may not have been the virtual world you dreamed of visiting, but if public speaking makes you sweat, it just may be the kind of setting you need. Speech Center VR places you at the center of attention, letting you work on presentations and offering pointers to overcome any fears of public speaking. It's the kind of app that demonstrates how VR headsets can educate as well as entertain. Headset only
Comprised of more esoteric offerings, Experiences cover everything from educational virtual tours to innovative storytelling programs.
Striving for Greatness (Free)
You may never be able to drunk, drive and dominate like LeBron James, but you can at least get an up-close view of his training regimen. The 12-minute documentary shows you how basketball superstar gets ready for games along with interviews featuring both James and his trainers. Because the immersive video was filmed in 360-degrees, you can turn your head in any direction to catch a glimpse of the hoops action. Headset only
"Darling, it's better, down where it's wetter." With the Gear VR, you don't have to take Sebastian's word for it; you can see it yourself with theBluVR. Instead of the usual human perspective, this experience places you in the body of several denizens of the deep — from manta rays to Arctic-bound killer whales to majestic blue whales — as a helpful narrator guides you along. It's a mesmerizing app you have see to believe. Headset only.
Neon Museum - Massive Square Inc. (Free)
It's not like seeing your name in lights, but it's the next best thing. Instead of traveling all the way to Las Vegas to experience the Neon Museum, you can take a tour from the comfort of your own home. Narrated by a helpful museum guide, patrons will have the opportunity to gaze upon some of the more famous signage of old Vegas, like the Sahara. Headset only.
Perfect Beach ($2.99)
This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Go to your happy place." Designed as a meditation tool, Perfect Beach transports Gear VR wearers to tropical paradise, complete with blue skies, palm trees and gently lapping water. You have the option to follow the guided meditation exercises or import your favorite music or podcasts to beat a hasty retreat from the stresses of the real world. Headset only.
Mars Is A Real Place ($2.99)
Just because you're not an astronaut doesn't mean you can't get to Mars. DrashVR's educational app, Mars Is A Real Place, allows curious stargazers to check out the Red Planet without having to go through all that training. Using more than 60 high-resolution stereoscopic 3D shots, you can check out the planet's surface and geologic formations, as well as see the view from orbit. Headset only.
Sherlock Holmes: The Wagner Ritual ($2.99)
It's Elementary, my dear reader! In Sherlock Holmes: The Wagner Ritual, you step into the shoes of the world's greatest detective as he works to solve one of his earliest mysteries. Set in a 360-degree world, you'll explore various locations in Zurich, Switzerland, investigating key objects to progress further in the case. You'll also be privy to Holmes' inner monologue as well as banter between the detective and his bumbling assistant as you make your way through this interactive mystery. Headset only.