Sky is set to offer viewers the chance to explore London’s Natural History Museum as part of a ‘world-first’ interactive VR experience.
Arriving later this year, the new digital adventure will pave the way for more VR-exclusive programs. We dive into the details below.
Best Buy smartphones – experience virtual reality for yourself on a top-notch mobile
Behind the glass at London’s Natural History Museum
As part of its growing interest in the future of VR entertainment, Sky has announced plans for an interactive series starring iconic broadcaster David Attenborough. The new Hold the World show will give viewers the chance to explore the Natural History Museum, letting them hold up and peer inside ancient artifacts from around the world. They’ll be accompanied on their journey by a three-dimensional hologram of Attenborough himself.
This isn’t the first time that Sky has shown an interest in VR. Last year, we reported on the launch of the Sky VR app, which creative director Richard Nockles said was the ‘first step on Sky’s very special VR journey’. The Hold the World show will be available through the free Sky VR app for smartphones – allowing anyone with a virtual reality headset to get involved. The TV giant is yet to reveal whether or not it’ll be for subscribers only, but considering all of the existing content on the app is free, we expect there will be a demo to try out at the very least.
The upcoming experience won’t arrive until later this year, but in the mean time the free Sky VR app for iOS and Android has something to offer. Sports fans have a film on Anthony Joshua to take a look at, and elsewhere there’s a thrilling Star Wars scene for movie buffs.
Watch 360-degree videos from Planet Earth II
If you were a fan of the BBC’s Planet Earth II series on TV, you might want to explore the free selection of 360-degree clips from the show that are available online.
Over on the Planet Earth II website, you’ll see experiences including a tour of the African grasslands at night and a walk through the Costa Rican jungle. Each video can be viewed with or without a virtual reality headset, and they’re all accessible through YouTube on a computer too.
How to watch virtual reality on your smartphone
You don’t need to spend much to enjoy the impression of virtual reality. If you want to try out a headset for the first time, we recommend Google Cardboard for iOS and Android. It’s a cardboard VR viewer (as the name suggests) that you have to assemble yourself, and it’s £15 from Google’s own store. Once built, you simply slot your phone into the headset and hold it up to your eyes. If you shop around for third-party alternatives on eBay, you can grab a clone for as little as 99p.
If you’re a little more serious about VR, Samsung sells its own dedicated headset, the Gear VR. It costs around £60, but is more responsive to your head movements compared to budget-priced alternatives. It works with the Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, Note 5, S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge+. Samsung has told us that the new Galaxy S8 will be getting its own, controller-supported VR headset ‘in the coming weeks’.
Visit our Samsung mobile phone reviews page for in-depth tests of its range of smartphones.
Competing against the Gear VR is the Daydream View. You can grab one from Carphone Warehouse for £70, which gets you the headset and a Daydream controller. Using a controller means you can ‘walk’ around a virtual world using your hand while you turn your head to look around at the same time. The headset works best with ‘Daydream-ready phones’, which includes the Pixel and Pixel XL. To see how both smartphones performed in our lab, see our Google Pixel review and Google Pixel XL review.
A top-of-the-range smartphone isn’t vital for VR, however. With generic headsets like Google Cardboard, all of the models listed in our guide on the best cheap mobile phones are compatible.
The latest smartphones put to the test
To experience virtual reality in all its glory, you’ll want a smartphone with a crystal-clear screen, impressive audio and solid battery life.
Only the smartphones that are a joy to use on a daily basis do enough to earn our Best Buy title. Meanwhile, Don’t Buy smartphones are slow to respond when running multiple apps at once, and die far quicker than they should.
To see which smartphones from the likes of Apple, Samsung and Huawei have impressed in our lab, see our smartphone reviews page.