Your iPhone can pull VR duty. You supply the viewer and the apps. Photo by Rick Broida/CNET
Guess what? Your iPhone can do virtual reality! All you need is an inexpensive headset and these cool apps.
Well, it's pretty much the only game in town. Indeed, WWDC came and went without a single mention of virtual reality, meaning Apple will continue to sit on the sidelines.
Fortunately for iPhone owners, that doesn't mean you need to switch to Android if you want to enjoy virtual experiences. In fact, you can dive into VR right now; all you need is a headset and some apps.
The headset is easy: Google Cardboard or anything compatible will work with just about any iPhone. To really do this on the cheap, head to Unofficial Cardboard, where you can score a simple, plain-white viewer for free. (You pay only $2.95 for shipping. If you want a decal and/or head strap, you can pay a few bucks extra.)
As for the apps, look no further than the App Store. Mostly you'll find games in there (and I'll be back tomorrow to showcase the best VR games for iPhone), but that's not everybody's jam. If you'd rather explore the world, take center stage in a documentary or, you know, travel to the moon, check out these amazing iPhone apps.
Google Street View
Want to take a virtual tour of Stonehenge? How about downtown Chicago? Or your very own town? It's possible thanks to Google's Street View app.
Street View is the mobile version of Google's ground-level Maps feature. Put the two together and presto: Now you get a virtual-reality view of anywhere you can visit in Street View.
And Street View has visited just about everywhere: the app showcases not only Google's own mapping efforts, but also users'. In fact, you can use Street View to create your own 360-degree "photo spheres" and add them to the collection.
Jaunt VR's interface takes advantage of VR as well. Photo by Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
Music, sports, travel, film -- the Jaunt VR app aggregates a wide variety of 360-degree and virtual reality videos, all housed in an attractive gaze-based interface (meaning you can navigate just by looking at various buttons and menu options). If you have kids, be sure to let them check out the adorable animated short, "The Invasion."
Some of the most interesting virtual reality experiences are coming from the New York Times. The newspaper's eponymous app is home to a number of exclusive cinematic experiences, including a dizzying climb to the top of 1 World Trade Center, a virtual visit to Pluto and a short documentary chronicling children displaced by war. There's currently no better source for original VR-enhanced stories.
Orbulus Special Edition
Pick an orb, any orb -- then get transported to that location. Photo by Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
Orbulus is all about 360-degree photo spheres, in this case a collection of user-supplied destinations enhanced with sound or music. To choose a sphere from the gallery, you simply focus on it for a few seconds. Once you're "inside," you can zoom in or out by tilting your head right or left. It's an interesting way to travel the globe, with destinations ranging from Hong Kong to San Francisco.
Sort of a mix between Jaunt and NYT VR (with some of the same content you'll find in both), Vrse focuses strictly on VR cinema. There's no organization to these curated videos, just a scrolling list you peruse before putting your phone into your viewer. Once you tap a selection, you have the choice of streaming or downloading it -- the latter a nice option for offline viewing.
Vrse is all about the movies. Photo by Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
Virtual Reality Moon
Sad to say you're not likely to ever visit the moon for real. The next best thing, at least for now: Virtual Reality Moon. On this free (but heavily ad-supported) trip, you're instantly transported to the moon's surface, where you can see both Earth and the International Space Station in the distance. You can also walk around, though this requires either a gamepad or a viewer that has an action button.
Finally, we come to YouTube, which is home to an exploding number of 360-degree and VR videos. Just search the app for anything with "360" or "VR" in the name, or head straight to YouTube's 360 Channel. But that's not all: You can actually watch any YouTube video in VR mode. The experience isn't
Goodnight, Earth. Photo by Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
Always great, but it's still a lot of fun to play around with. Which VR apps would you consider essential for iPhone users?