Uses for PlayStation VR Besides Virtual Reality Gaming

PlayStation VR can be about exploration as much as virtual reality gaming. Sony Interactive Entertainment

You are not alone if you are left wondering if there are enough good virtual reality games to justify investing in the PlayStation VR accessory, especially when both the VR package and a PlayStation Camera are required. While it enjoyed a solid range of launch titles, there is no blockbuster game that really makes it a must-have. But even when you take all of the virtual reality games out of the equation, there is still a lot you can do with PlayStation VR.

In fact, you might be surprised at some of the uses, including the ability to use the VR headset beyond just the PlayStation.

Cinematic Mode for Non-VR Games

While PlayStation VR is designed for playing virtual reality games, the second best use for it doesn't fall far from the tree. When you launch a game that doesn't support virtual reality, the headset goes into "cinematic mode." This mode mimics sitting about six feet away from a theater screen and comes in three different sizes: A 117-inch "Small" screen, a 163-inch "Medium" screen and a whopping 226-inch "Large" screen. And if you guessed you can't see that entire "Large" screen without moving your head, you are right. Even the "Medium" screen forces you to turn your head to focus on different parts of the screen.

Most of us are playing games on a screen that measures between 40 inches and 60 inches diagonally, so even the "Small" screen is about twice the size.

Unfortunately, that "Small" screen moves with you as you turn your head, which makes it poor for gaming. Or, really, for most purposes. The Medium seems to hit a sweet spot for gaming, but the Large can be great for some games that don't require you to take in all of the screen at once.

Gaming this way isn't perfect.

All of the virtual reality headsets suffer from the "screen door effect", which is essentially the ability to distinguish individual pixels on the screen because your eyes are only a few inches from the display. The PlayStation VR headset does a great job of minimizing this effect, but it is still there. Luckily, it is easy for this to fade away once the action begins.

Cinematic Mode for Watching Movies and TV

The same cinematic mode has another very cool purpose: watching movies like you are at the movie theater. Again, this isn't perfect, but it's definitely good enough for those movies you didn't deem worthy to see at the theater. With a nice set of headphones and with cinematic mode set on "Medium," it provides a great experience with one caveat: it can get uncomfortable to wear that headset after a couple of hours. Of course, this is a problem with VR gaming and every other use as well.

And this movie-watching experience will get better over time as Sony improves the cinematic mode (crossing fingers for a custom mode that lets us adjust the screen size by the inch) and more providers support VR within the app. Hulu has already jumped on board by providing a virtual space for watching movies and TV that mimics a gorgeous room overlooking a city skyline with a huge television to watch the latest episodes of your favorite shows.

Hopefully, other companies like Netflix will follow soon.

Watch Virtual Reality Movies 

Right now, many of the VR movies and videos available fall somewhere between cool and cheesy. Many don't have good enough resolution to really immerse in the experience. It's a fun thing to check out when you first get your PSVR, but something that will quickly fade into background. This is mainly because there is not a lot of video out there shot specifically for VR. But slowly, companies are creating with VR in mind. You can already check out some of these shows on services like Within, which has an app in the PlayStation store with features similar to Hulu.

They don't have quite the catalog yet, but some shows like Invasion, which is about a couple of bunnies saving the world from alien invaders, show a lot of promise.

Watch VR Videos and Photos

It may sound repetitive, but PlayStation VR supports virtual reality video. We've covered film designed specifically for VR, but what may be even more exciting is the prospect of home video and 360 degree photographs. While top-end 360 degree cameras like the GoPro Omni are quite expensive, the lower end is becoming more and more affordable. This can take the idea of inviting people over to experience your family vacation to a whole new level.

You can view VR video and photos by saving them to a USB drive and inserting it into one of the PS4's USB slots. The Media Player on the PS4 supports VR video in most of the common formats.

YouTube also now supports PlayStation VR.  When you launch the YouTube app while your headset is turned on, you will be asked whether or not you want to launch the virtual reality version of YouTube. This version lets you watch the 360 degree videos posted on the site. And as you can imagine, there are a lot of videos ranging from sitting in a stadium watching a football game to being front row at a concert to riding a roller coaster.

Play Games or Watch Movies While the TV is In Use

If the PlayStation's TV is shared by multiple members of the household, this trick can come in handy. The PlayStation VR's processing unit splits the video signal, sending one to the headset and one to the television.

However, unless you are playing a game that uses both screens like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, there is no reason why the TV actually needs to display what is on the PS4. This means one person can watch cable on the TV while another plays a game or watches a movie using the PSVR headset.

Play XBOX ONE, XBOX 360 or Wii U Games With It

Funny enough, your XBOX can get in on the fun. The cinematic mode works with any video coming through the HDMI cable. So if you switch the HDMI IN from your PS4's cable to another HDMI cable, you can actually play XBOX ONE, XBOX 360, Wii U or any games from a console that has an HDMI OUT port. You can even plug in your PC if it support HDMI.

One caveat here is that the VR processing unit must still be hooked up to the PS4 via the USB cable to help control the cinematic mode, and, obviously, your PS4 must still be turned on.

Relaxation

Let's not forget the meditative experience available in virtual reality. Harmonix Music may be best known for their Rock Band line of music games, but they are diving into the VR experience with Harmonix Music VR. The "game" (used loosely) lets you travel from island to island and relax to an audio-visual experience. You can even plug in your own music library instead of being confined to one of the seventeen tracks that comes with the title.

...And Adult Content

You didn't think the porn industry was going to overlook virtual reality, did you? Many adult-themed video websites now offer a virtual reality video section.

However, the web browser on the PlayStation 4 doesn't yet support virtual reality, so in order to play these videos, you will need to download them to a USB drive from a computer and plug them into the PlayStation 4's USB port.

Is downloading anything from an adult website a good idea? Not really.

Future Uses Include Travel, Exploration and Education

One of the most exciting uses just around the corner for PlayStation VR is travel. Already, companies like Hilton and Reel FX are bringing out travel videos like Destination: Inspiration, which can be a great way to explore parts of the world we've never seen and perhaps decide on the destination for our next trip.

Travel isn't the only area where VR can excel. Exploration and education are two areas that seem a natural fit. This is demonstrated in the "Ocean Descent" experience in PlayStation Worlds. An "experience" rather than a game, Ocean Descent lowers you into the water for up to three different depths, allowing you to check out the marine life swimming around you. The lowest level features a shark that is none-too-pleased to see you. Sound like something from an educational trip to Sea World? You bet.

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