When it comes to mobile VR, Android based devices such as Gear VR have grabbed most of the attention recently. As regular readers and listeners of the Coolsmartphone podcast will know my devices of choice are iOS based, so I was keen to see if there was a VR scene for the iPhone.
Finding the right iPhone VR hardware
After several hours reading many reviews on Amazon I decided on using the Amir VR headset as the focus of my iPhone VR testing.
The Amir VR headset is designed to work on all 4-6″ smartphones so I know it would work fine on both my iPhone 5s and iPhone 6s which is my daily driver, but would it give a good VR experience?
Given that the device only costs £19 I was a little sceptical but as always keen to get stuck in.
The Packaging that the Amir headset came in was minimalist and neat, which set a good initial impression looking like a premium product rather than a budget device.
The actual headset itself continues the positive experience by being well built and certainly looking the part. If you have used Google Cardboard before you’ll know that it doesn’t feel like a long term solution, whereas the Amir headset is very solid and looks like it will take a bang or two.
My previous usage of a cardboard clone was hampered by the lack of a head band which meant that I had to hold the headset in place leading to a reduced immersive experience. The Amir headset comes with an adjustable head band to ensure that you can use the device hands free, this makes a word of difference and is a must when looking for a VR headset.
Setting up and teething issues
Placing my phone into the headset was straight forward, you simply place the phone into the middle of the front panel and closed the case where a magnet keeps everything safely in place, there are gaps on either side of the visor to allow headphones and power to be connected. I strongly recommend the use of headphones to block out the outside world and improve the overall experience.
There are 3 controls on the headset, a control on top of the headset to set pupil distance and controls on the side of the device to set focal distance, so you should be able to adjust the lenses to be comfortable for your sight.
So did it go well???? At first NO it didn’t!!
Poor Image Quality on Google Cardboard Apps
Most of the Google Cardboard apps initially produced a very poor image quality with the headset. The cause soon became apparently – you need to configure each Google Cardboard App to use your headset, this is normally performed by scanning a QR Code. Unfortunately the Amir VR Headset wasn’t supplied with a QR code which may have caused a problem…however after a bit of research I found out that the Amir headset has similar specs to the Viewmaster headset which gave me a starting point.
Which QR Code to use with the Amir VR Headset?
The following QR code works a treat, scan it into Google Cardboard Apps and you are off to a flying start.
After scanning the QR code the results became very impressive, with detailed, immersive, 3D, 360 degree video being delivered through the headset.
You need to be aware that there is no way of interacting with your phone after it’s inside the headset, so you need to remember to start the video playback or App before you close the case.
The final issue to mention is that the Amir headset doesn’t feature an activation switch which is needed for a number of Google Cardboard Apps, for example Goosebumps nights of scares isn’t playable which is a real shame as we were looking forward to it.
This headset is designed for video only.
Fantastic iPhone VR Experiences
Some of you may not have been aware that there are VR style Apps for iOS, but there are some crackers out there, here are some of the best.
- Within (Formally known as VRSE) provides a jaw droppingly wonderful experience, offering an ever expanding library from some of the best 360 degree film makers in the world you will be blown away by the overall immersion of the videos. Some videos can be downloaded others can be streamed, but either way the result is impressive. Seriously stop what you are doing now and download Within and the Evolution of Verse film…you wont regret it.
- Youtube provides a Cardboard mode which allows you to watch 360 degree videos in a ‘VR’ style mode, the amount of 360 degree videos is certainly impressive covering many topics including Nature, Education, Space and if you like being scared check out:
- FiveNights at Freddy’s by Blackbox TV
- 360 Horror: Lock Your Doors
- Interactive Paranormal Activity Seance.
- Discovery VR provides a large library from the guys at Discovery, featuring 360 degree video versions of well known shows including MythBusters, Shark Week & Deadliest Catch. It’s a great example of how 360 degree video can work.
In closing, if you are looking for a 360 degree video headset for an iPhone then the Amir VR Glasses are a great starting point, it’s a well built and high quality device, just remember that you need to scan the correct QR code for Cardboard apps to work correctly, and it doesn’t include the activation switch.
It’s early days but VR Video for the iPhone is here, if you know any other great iPhone VR experiences then let us know. If you fancy an Amir VR headset, it’s £17.99 from Amazon.