This VR Travel App Makes Me Long for the Real Thing

Brink Traveler is fun, but it's no ticket to ride

Key Takeaways

  • The new VR travel app, Brink Traveler, lets you explore landscapes around the world in stunning detail.
  • The app is created from scanned photographs and LiDAR technology.
  • As fun as it is to use Brink Traveler, I can’t help but feel that it’s a long way from actual travel.
Observing Mouth Whitney in Brink Theater

Brink Traveler

It’s been far too long since I’ve seen new landscapes, so I was excited to try the new VR application, Brink Traveler.

The app, available for the Oculus Quest 2 and the Oculus Rift, is designed to let you explore real-world locations in 3D environments. Created from scanned photographs and LiDAR technology, it’s intended to make you feel like you’re transported somewhere else.

Brink Traveler succeeds in being a fun app to explore, but potential purchasers should note that it’s not a game. There are no goals and rewards in the traditional sense. Instead, Brink Traveler is a meditative journey to places around the world. 

VR as a Plane Ticket

Recent travel restrictions mean I’ve been longing to travel. For less than $10, Brink Traveler might be a suitable replacement and a lot cheaper than a plane ticket. 

The sheer simplicity of the app works in its favor. As soon as you download and launch it, you’re presented with the vistas of Horseshoe Bend in Arizona. 

I was impressed with the detail of the graphics, which are a lot better than any other app I’ve tried on the Quest 2. Presumably, this is because the relatively static nature of the game isn’t as demanding on the Oculus’ processor. 

You can explore the app by either walking around or moving with the controllers. I spent most of the time using the controllers to walk around landscapes. 

There are three "collectible" points of interest at each location that you can navigate to with a virtual compass. While I enjoyed learning more about the different areas, the points of interest intrude on the illusion that you’re somewhere besides your living room. I would have preferred to just wander more, as the information points floating in mid-air often ruined the view. 

One very cool feature, however, is switching to night mode when you’re walking around the various locations. There’s something eerie, yet calming about visiting the landscapes at night, and since I tend to use my Oculus in the evening, it suits my mood perfectly. 

While using the Brink Traveler app, you also can take virtual photos and videos, then share on social media, just like you would on a real vacation. I sent some of the pictures I took while wandering around the app to a friend, and they were so realistic he thought I’d jumped on a plane.

Scratching the Travel Itch

As fun as it is to use Brink Traveler, I can’t help feeling it’s a long way from actual travel. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise because, after all, it’s intended to be a virtual experience. And while the app is a significant improvement over the graphics of many current VR games, it still lacks the visual detail of real life, which can make it hard to fully buy into. 

But I love the idea of virtual reality as travel. The ability to transport users to other places seems like the best use of VR. I suspect the main problem is the hardware. While the resolution of VR headsets has improved in recent years, they are still a far cry from what your eyes can pick up in real life. 

"While I enjoyed learning more about the different areas, the points of interest intrude on the illusion that you’re somewhere besides your living room."

The bulky Oculus Quest 2 was also a hindrance. After a short time, the headset became uncomfortable, and the straps pressed on my head, which made exploring the app less realistic than I would have hoped.

However, manufacturers are reportedly working on more comfortable and higher resolution headsets. Apple, for example, is rumored to be working on a VR headset with a 3000 dpi display, which could definitely improve the VR travel experience.

Overall, though, Brink Traveler is a fun way to spend a few hours and virtually get out of the house. But the experience of traveling in VR is just whetting my appetite for the real thing once travel restrictions are lifted.

Was this page helpful?