How about taking time off to visit a mountain village in Iceland, to experience a White Christmas? That too, without stepping out of your home in the UAE? The VR Iceland Christmas Tour promises to whisk you away on a virtual ride that includes snowfall, ice sculptures, “curls of light moving across the sky, sudden rays of light shooting down from space” and other strange goodies. All you need to hop onboard this slightly-psychedelic trip is a cheap VR headset.
And once you are back from Iceland, VR Christmas Bike Racing would like to have a word with you. It seems Santa wants to enlist your help in delivering Christmas presents to the good children out there. Though you won’t have to learn how to ride a sleigh — here, you get a modern snowbike to navigate the “treacherous winter tracks” along the way — in virtual reality.
But if you prefer something more sedentary, the VR Xmas: Marina Square game wants you to experience this Christmas at the Magical Christmas Village. You have reindeer for company, but they soon go missing. And who is better qualified to track them down than — drumroll, please — you?!
A quick search for “Christmas VR” on Google’s Play Store throws up dozens of apps — from VR snowball fights to VR Christmas greetings — that try to mashup the festive season and virtual reality. The result is not always great, and some of the apps have garnered blistering reviews from hapless users. But the apps do point to an emerging reality — virtual reality is rapidly morphing from a niche curiosity to a mainstream market. These imperfect Christmas-related VR apps are just the first wave. And giving them company, is a growing list of Christmas-related 360 degree videos.
The UK-based publication, Mirror, calls it a “virtual reality Christmas”, while noting that VR has undoubtedly been one of 2016’s biggest technology trends. It further quotes a study done by UK retailer, Carphone Warehouse, that found VR is the fastest growing category in wearable technologies. Moreover, the number of British homes with virtual reality headsets is set to double and reach 10 per cent by this Christmas. The growth is largely fuelled by the easy availability of VR headsets at different price-points.
Even closer home, a quick search on the shopping site Souq.com throws up dozens of options for mobile VR, with headsets starting as low as Dh 11.99. Though if you have a flagship Samsung device, you would be better off with the Dh 185 Gear VR 2. At the other end, those with beefy wallets can go desktop-grade VR headsets, like the Dh 3,399 HTC Vive. Google too has jumped onboard and moved upmarket from a DIY cardboard offering to the fashionable and fabric-covered Daydream VR — if you can’t wait for it to be easily available in the UAE, you can grab it off Desertcart.ae for a princely sum of Dh 644.
But whichever headset you go for, you can sure of one thing — this year, you will have an eventful Christmas. At least in virtual reality.