My experience with Oculus Quest 2

Article and photo by Jason Setnyk

I recently had the opportunity to try out the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset and I have to say I find the technology transformative. The ability to be fully immersed in a 360-degree environment has the power to revolutionize how we perceive and experience the world and beyond. Many people might think that VR is simply a gaming system, and while there are certainly successful games like Beat Saber that have used this technology, the possibilities go well beyond entertainment. Exercise apps, similar to Wii Fitness, also take advantage of the immersive nature of VR. From virtual meetings to watching 3D movies to roller coaster rides, the uses for VR seem endless.

However, what intrigued me most about this technology is the ability to explore, learn and experience new places. Imagine visiting a foreign land and exploring the sights and sounds without leaving the comfort of your own home or walking through historical landmarks and experiencing history in a way previously impossible. The potential for educational and cultural experiences with VR is immense.

The possibilities of exploring the world with VR technology are truly remarkable. For example, I recently tried an app called “Wander” that imports Google Maps Street View. With this app I can now freely wander through the world of magic of VR. I can teleport almost anywhere in the world from my living room. I can walk across London Bridge, stroll through the gardens of the Taj Mahal, or witness the enormity of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. The opportunities for unlimited exploration are truly amazing. There’s even a feature that lets you add ambient sounds like “city” or “nature” to make it even more immersive.

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The first place I visited using this app was my hometown of Cornwall, Ontario. Using my childhood home as a reference point, I saw my old high school, the parks I played in, and more. I could look up, look down, turn around and be completely immersed in a 360 photo. I was even able to navigate to different streets which made me feel like I was actually there. Since then I have traveled to numerous countries and had the opportunity to explore and get to know different cultures. I recently discovered that it is possible to visit the inside of some buildings like the White House in Washington DC and museums like the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The ability to look into these places and experience them in a way that was previously impossible is truly remarkable.

Another app I highly recommend downloading is YouTube VR. While you may already be watching regular YouTube videos, this app is specially designed for searching and viewing 360 videos. I’ve already found some channels with excellent content that I would never have discovered otherwise. One of my favorite channels on YouTube VR is National Geographic. They have some impressive VR experiences. For example, I visited the inside of the International Space Station and saw the Earth from space. One astronaut commenting on the video says something simple but profound: He didn’t think humans were ever meant to see Earth from this perspective. The scene of Earth from the ISS, along with the size and scale of being in space, was a profound experience that I won’t soon forget. As a child, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut and venturing into uncharted territory. However, with the help of VR technology, I can now immerse myself in a 360 degree environment and explore other planets such as Mars.

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Another notable video from National Geographic is a tour of Iceland’s glaciers. There are a range of perspectives, from a drone overhead, to stationary positions on the ground, to a boat and navigating the icy waters. It was truly breathtaking to see these natural wonders up close and personal, from angles I never thought possible to explore and experience.

Besides National Geographic, there is another VR YouTube channel worth exploring called VR Gorilla. Their tourism videos explore locations in England, France, Germany, Italy, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, Cuba and more. They also have nature documentaries where you can get up close and personal with elephants, giraffes, gorillas, penguins, underwater habitats and more.

But where VR Gorilla really excels is in its 360 VR documentaries. These videos are powerful storytelling tools that allow you to experience the world from a whole new perspective. For example, in the video “Refugees in DRC Congo” you will witness extreme poverty and how radically different their way of life is from ours. It’s a harrowing experience that’s sure to have an impact.

Another stunning 360-degree VR documentary is titled My Home, Shatila. This video tells the story of Fadia, a 14-year-old Palestinian-Syrian refugee living in Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon. It’s one thing to read about refugees or see a photo or video clip, but it’s another to immerse yourself in their world as they invite you into their homes and neighborhoods to tell their stories. This type of VR storytelling has the power to create empathy and understanding in ways that traditional media simply cannot.

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Not all VR videos are of the same quality; For example, I noticed that many music concert recordings were uploaded at a lower resolution. However, I was very impressed with A Virtual Reality Concert With Halestorm, which was exceptionally well executed. It felt like I was on stage next to the lead singer. It’s exciting to think about a future where attending concerts, theater and sporting events through VR technology could offer an immersive experience that feels like you’re physically there – whether on stage or in the front row of the audience .

In summary, I believe that VR has the potential to be a transformative technology that can change the way we experience the world. From exploring new places and cultures to gaining a deeper understanding of the struggles faced by people around the world, VR has the power to create empathy and understanding in ways traditional media simply cannot. Although the technology is still in its infancy, I’m excited to see what the future holds for VR and how it can be used to improve our lives and broaden our horizons. While it may not be a substitute for real-world experience, it’s an incredible tool for those who can’t travel or just want to try something new. I highly recommend giving VR a shot and seeing where it takes you. Who knows what the future holds for this exciting technology, but I’m excited to find out.

Jason Setnyk is a high school teacher, journalist, published and award-winning author and photographer. He co-writes 5 questions and interviews.

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