Apple Watch may be the most useful VR accessory yet
Russell is the Managing Editor at VR Heads. He's been a passionate follower of all things VR for years, and spends more time than any healthy person should exploring the incredible experiences available on every VR and AR headset. Reach out on Twitter!
Weirdly, the Apple Watch could become the "must have" VR accessory of the year.
There are now several VR apps in Apple's App Store offering companion apps for the Apple Watch. These companion apps don't allow you to look down in VR and see your watch, but instead give the wearer some basic controls over what is being seen by others in these apps. This gives the person wearing the Apple Watch the ability to share something in VR with another person without making that person entirely responsible for controlling the virtual experience they currently inhabit, which is brilliant.
One of the most awkward parts of sharing VR with someone unfamiliar with the experience is not being able to control what that person sees. This is even worse with mobile VR, where you can't see what the other person is seeing and have to use their descriptions of things to navigate them to the experience you want to share.
It's a messy situation, one without an elegant solution until recently. Two apps with similar solutions stand out currently, Neo VR for Reddit and Mobile VR Station . The Apple Watch companion apps for these two work similarly, representing a fairly new kind of interaction for mobile VR experiences.
It's nice to see continued development with Cardboard projects.
Remote VR Station, the companion to Mobile VR Station, gives the wearer the ability to play image and video files stored locally on the iPhone, recenter the user to the important parts of the virtual environment, and even adjust the interpupillary distance of the app while the phone is in VR being worn by someone. Neo VR isn't quite as featureful, but offers a unique way to consume Reddit photos and videos with the watch as a simple control.
Since putting an iPhone in a VR headset right now means you're using Google's Cardboard system right now, this added functionality is impressive. Google Cardboard works with a pair of input mechanisms, staring at a specific spot for a moment or using the button on the side of the headset if you have one. With Samsung's Gear VR and Google's Daydream VR experiences moving on to support separate inexpensive controllers with laser pointer-like interactions with the virtual environment, it's nice to see continued development with Cardboard projects.
At the same time, this isn't something that really needs to be limited to Google Cardboard, or even limited to just the iPhone. Using your Apple Watch as a mechanism for troubleshooting or launching experiences for the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive would be amazing, especially if you're the kind of person to share those VR experiences with a lot of your friends.
It could go both ways, too. Imagine the HTC Vive Knock Knock feature tapping your wrist three times through the Apple Watch Taptic Engine instead of making that knocking sound in your headset to let you know when someone in the real world wants you attention.
You don't have to look far to find someone willing to talk about how big they think Apple's contributions to this industry are going to be someday, but that distant gaze is ignoring the contributions developers are already making now and could be releasing long before Apple has something for us to get excited about.