Once considered the stuff of science fiction, virtual reality (VR) is increasingly going mainstream. The idea of placing your smartphone into a special pair of glasses and experiencing a whole new world does not sound as outlandish as it did a few years ago. One reason for this, of course, is the fact that VR headsets are relatively more affordable now. And the second is the emergence of a number of apps that make the most of this technology. So if you want a taste of VR and have a VR headset, here are some free apps to get you started.

Tilt Brush

Perhaps no VR application has caught the public’s imagination quite like Tilt Brush. You put on your VR headset, pick up the controllers that come with the headset and see the place you are standing in turned into a vast digital canvas on which you can paint. You can choose colours from a digital palette, pick up the brush you like and paint away. Your paintings are going to be totally 3D affairs, so you can actually walk into them and alter them. But the catch is that it will be available only for HTC’s Vive VR headset in the near future.

Temple Run VR

Yes, it is the classic runner game, but now in all its VR glory. So instead of getting a top-down view of a person running and being pursued by vengeful apes, you get to see that person’s own perspective. You get a view of a rapidly moving road and have to dodge obstacles and enemies and pick up coins and bonuses by using the touch pad on the side of the Samsung Gear VR headset (currently, it works only with this headset). You can even look around if you dare take your eyes off the road. Easily the best action VR game around.

Google Street View

In terms of simple utility, this is perhaps the most useful VR app. Google Street View is known for its ability to allow you to get a panoramic view of different places in Google Maps. So you could check out the Taj Mahal in Agra or the Palace of Versailles in France on your smartphone itself, thanks to detailed panoramic photography. However, the app takes on a totally different dimension when used with Google’s Cardboard headset, for instead of having to move your finger on a display to navigate, you can just turn your head and look around. It is the closest thing to actually being there. What’s more, you can add your own photographs to the app and see those shared by other users.

TheBlu VR

Imagine Google Street View under water. That is TheBlu VR, an app designed to give you a feeling of life in the ocean. Put on your VR glasses and the view you will get is similar to that of a deep-sea diver, with different kinds of fish, from sharks to dolphins and whales, swimming around you in clear blue waters. There is a voice-over to guide you through it all, adding an educational element to the entire experience. This app is currently available for the Samsung Gear VR and the Oculus Rift VR.

Titans of Space

Far from being the final frontier, space is emerging as the first stop for many VR app developers, since this enables users to experience outer space, the solar system and the stars almost as if they had their own private planetariums. The app gives you a guided tour of planets and stars, but does so by actually giving you a feeling of being right in the middle of them. You can look around, zoom in and sometimes even spin a planet or orbit it. Quite an amazing experience. It is available for Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear and the Oculus Rift VR headsets.

Vrse

The app is basically a storyteller, but even as you hear the stories being told, you see some amazing landscapes and images moving around you. It is like being in a television programme. The app can be a trifle sluggish at times, but definitely presents a new and highly immersive way of telling stories. It is available for Google Cardboard, Oculus and Samsung VR headsets, and will also be available for the Sony PlayStation VR headset and the HTC Vive VR headsets once these are launched.

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