How Consumers Can Access a Virtual Reality Experience without Buying a Headset

Virtual reality is one access point to the realm known as the metaverse. If the term sounds familiar, it’s because Facebook has rebranded as Meta, Inc. The name nods to the ‘metaverse,’ and the company has expressed its commitment to developing this new alternate universe.

While augmented reality dips a toe into a meta world, virtual reality exists firmly in the metaverse. Unfortunately, accessing a virtual reality experience typically requires a headset, which can be costly and cumbersome. However, consumers don’t necessarily need to own a headset to enjoy a virtual reality experience.

In fact, virtual reality is more accessible than most consumers realize. Here are five virtual reality experiences for consumers that want to explore the metaverse but that, perhaps, don’t want to spend hundreds on a new headset or goggles.

Google Cardboard

With Google Cardboard, the smartphone can transform into a virtual reality headset. While this experience isn’t free, it is very inexpensive. Google Cardboard headsets can be purchased in a range of prices, and several cost less than $10.  

How do consumers know which Cardboard option is best? Choose the option that fits the smartphone screen. Feeling DIY inspired? Google also offers instructions online on how to build a viewer from basic items found around the home. Or make a list from the tutorial and visit a hardware store.

After building or receiving the viewer, consumers can download the Google Cardboard app via the App Store or Google Play and start enjoying virtual reality experiences!

Virtual Reality Experience

Virtual Reality Spa Experiences

Virtual reality experiences are now used to enhance spa treatments. While virtual reality isn’t being used as a treatment, it is being utilized to help guests relax and enjoy a more immersive state of relaxation.

Virtual reality headsets allow guests to enjoy a getaway of their choice. Guests can transport to a lush paradise or another scenic environment as they sit in a massage chair. The experience is called Esquapes Immersive Relaxation and also uses fans combined with heat lamps to create a more realistic virtual—and warm!—getaway.

Virtual Reality Games

Local adventure parks often include virtual reality games or other experiences. Many charge a fee for participating, but for those who want to experience virtual reality without committing to a headset, these games and experiences are great options.

To find virtual reality offerings, just search for “virtual reality experiences near me” on Google. Or ask a virtual assistant via a smartphone. Yes, it’s really that easy. And many major cities will offer something virtual!

Virtual Reality Experience

Virtual Reality Museum Experiences

Some museums offer virtual reality experiences to allow guests to immerse in an art or other exhibit. These experiences vary but are a unique way to explore an exhibit or work of art. Some exhibits are even virtual by design! Museum Next included a round-up of different museums offering virtual reality and how each has utilized this technology to enhance their exhibits.

 For example, the V&A used virtual reality for its Curious Alice exhibit, which focused on the “…origins, adaptations and reinventions…” of the classic adventures by Lewis Carroll.  The virtual experience transports the visitor into Wonderland. Go on quests, solve riddles (from the Caterpillar, of course) and interact with the characters. There’s even a game of croquet with the Queen of Hearts, because a visit into the mad world of Wonderland wouldn’t be complete without a game of croquet. Grab a flamingo!

The Louvre’s dip into virtual reality also was highlighted by Museum Next. The Louvre created a virtual reality experience focused on Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Users can download the app ‘Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass’ via Google Play or the App Store. However, users must have access to Google Cardboard or a virtual reality headset to explore the app.

Virtual Tours

Stuck at home with nothing to do? Let virtual reality be the exit to another experience…or to another part of the world. While many museums offer virtual reality experiences as part of an exhibit, many offer virtual tours, too.

There is no need for a headset to take a virtual tour. However, users will need access to their computer…or a smartphone or tablet. Virtual tours aren’t true virtual reality. That is, without a headset or goggles, the user doesn’t feel completely transported.

Yet, tours are virtual in that they allow the user to explore the museum from  home. Virtual tours can let users explore different exhibits in detail or just feel as though they are walking down the corridors of the museum, looking up at paintings or other artwork.

The Sistine Chapel allows those at home to view Michelangelo’s artwork on the Chapel’s ceiling. Use the mouse (or the finger) to navigate through this historic and wondrous site. Directional arrows via the virtual tour allow users to get closer to different areas of the Chapel (and artwork by different artists). Or rotate the tour upwards to view the ceiling.

Other museums include virtual tours of exhibits or may even allow guests to schedule more immersive and lengthy private virtual tours led by a personal tour guide from the museum. Different museums may provide unique experiences and offerings.

However, those who are interested in exploring virtual reality experiences at local museums might want to visit their websites first. Many virtual tours are accessible via the museum’s website or there may be additional information related to virtual tours posted online as well.

Virtual Reality Experience

Virtual Reality Experience for Shopping?

Consumers might find themselves stuck at home during a rainy or snowy day but still want to go shopping or at least window shop. Most consumers know that online shopping is a convenient way to order what they need and find what they want; many stores even allow consumers to buy online and ship to the store (often for free!). Plus, online shopping is open and accessible rain or shine.

But is online shopping virtual reality? Not quite. Many people use the term ‘virtual’ to describe an experience that doesn’t take place in person or at a physical location. However, the metaverse still can be used to aid shoppers in their online experiences.

Virtual reality hasn’t yet hit mainstream popularity. Many individuals at home don’t have access to virtual reality headsets or goggles. And while stores could offer virtual experiences at their physical locations, what about online shopping? Can virtual reality be used to help shoppers online?

These completely virtual experiences aren’t yet common. Although they could be in the future. Perhaps if Meta releases a very affordable virtual reality headset, it’s possible that the metaverse could be used for shopping. Perhaps malls go virtual.

However, the metaverse is accessible via another technology that’s very similar to virtual reality. Augmented reality combines the real world environment and the metaverse. Using the camera on a smartphone or tablet, the user visualizes the real world, and augmented reality apps then overlay graphics into this environment.

Since augmented reality combines the real world with graphics, the technology is popular for ‘try on’ experiences that allow consumers to preview products. The camera can be used as a window or a mirror. For example, the user can capture their own face via the camera and an augmented reality try on experience can let them virtually swipe on makeup hues or even hair colors!

These experiences also let the consumer explore and enjoy products in new ways. And they also could decrease the likelihood of a return. After all, if an individual can preview a lipstick color, they can decide if the color flatters their complexion. Or if it’s a big no.

Before augmented reality experiences became more mainstream, the consumer had to guess about products. Now, though, augmented reality lets consumers drop furniture into a room to see if it fits. Or try on a pair of eyeglasses. Paint colors can even be previewed on walls.

While augmented reality doesn’t transport the user to another realm, it does mix reality with the metaverse. The furniture that is virtually placed into a room doesn’t really exist. It’s just a depiction. A computer graphic.

But could virtual reality be used to create even more immersive experiences in the future? That might depend on the future of virtual reality. For many consumers, virtual reality headsets aren’t practical or affordable.

Some consumers might not even enjoy virtual reality, as the experience could make them feel sick or induce a headache. However, if the headsets become more mainstream, perhaps more affordable, then maybe the metaverse could expand to include virtual shopping experiences.

The future of the metaverse, though, also may be a long way off. While Meta (the company) is interested in furthering these experiences, consumers could see different iterations of the metaverse. Or different metaverse destinations that are branded by different tech companies.

Apple could deploy its own metaverse with virtual reality experiences. There could be a Google metaverse. And a Facebook metaverse…or, rather, a Meta metaverse.

For now, though, augmented reality could be the easiest way for consumers to enjoy a semi-virtual experience without the headset or maybe even the headache. However, for those who really want to fully immerse into a virtual world and leave reality behind, stepping into virtual reality might be as easy as visiting a local museum or even a spa. And for those who wish to deploy virtual reality without an expensive headset, Google Cardboard could be the cheapest ticket to the fully virtual metaverse!