E3 2015 had no shortage of virtual reality technology for me to try, and most focused on entertaining. However, one company, Cubicle Ninjas, is doing something entirely different with the technology.
Cubicle Ninjas had two projects at E3. One was a virtual tour of Venice, Italy, which had the added benefit of basically being a virtual museum. The other was what they call Guided Meditation VR, which is just as it sounds – a virtual reality space for meditation. They both are still entertaining in the fact that they are virtual reality games, and that’s not commonplace yet. However, their practical benefits are what made me enjoy them the most.
Let’s start with an explanation of the Venice city tour. I demoed this one on a Samsung Gear VR headset. When I entered, I found myself surrounded by people wearing different styles of masks. Each had a small circular audio button next to them with a phrase, like “Doctor Mask.” If I looked at the audio symbol for a few seconds, a photo would pop up, and a narrator would begin to explain that type of mask. Then, I could look around, find the next audio button and listen to another narration. Once I had learned about all of the masks, I was instructed to for a burgundy box with the word “Ramble” on it. After looking at it for a few seconds, I was brought to the next segment, and the tour continued. An additional note I’d like to make about this “game” is that I played it in a swivel chair, and that was the best thing to play it in. This allowed me to look around easily without having to crane my neck painfully behind me to find the next audio button.
Cubicle Ninjas hopes to get the Venice city tour into schools, museums and homes for the elderly. Schools and museums are an obvious, perfect use of this type of application. It’s the nursing homes that I was skeptical about. However, there have been studies conducted that show virtual reality aids people with afflictions such as dementia, balance issues and even Alzheimer’s. It’s exciting to think that a “game” can actually help people. Cubicle Ninjas does hope to make more city tours featuring more places, but none are in production currently.
The second demo I played was Guided Meditation VR. It’s incredibly simple , but can be customized to suit the users needs or wants. In my demo, I was put in a tropical waterfall environment and experience what Josh Farkas describes as flying mode. My field of vision gently floated around the island location, past the waterfall, and through the palm trees. I was able to look around with the headset to take in my surroundings. The sound of the water was soothing, and I felt myself zoning out before I knew it. Maybe it was the stress of E3 and the fact that I was sitting for the first time in a few hours, but I legitimately felt more relaxed. The other modes in Guided Meditation include walking around your chosen environment with a controller or sitting in one position. For the demo version, I could only teleport to different parts of the location using the action button on the controller.
Natural sounds play in every playable environment, unless you’d like to change those too. Guided Meditation allows you to play your own music, your own audio book or even your own narrated guided meditation. And, of course, you can change between countless different locations of your choosing. The amount of options really allow the user to adjust their experience depending on how they feel that day.
Guided Meditation is another virtual reality application that Cubicle Ninjas hopes to bring to practical places such as nursing homes and therapists’ offices. A demo of it is currently available for download, with the full release planned for Fall 2015.
While both of these virtual reality experiences wouldn’t necessarily be considered “games,” I did find them incredibly fun in serving the functions that they do. I inadvertently relaxed while experiencing Guided Meditation VR and learned a thing or two on my tour of Venice! Cubicle Ninjas is doing something fantastic by making practical applications that can be used in a variety of possibly life-changing ways. I know I’d love to get Guided Mediation for my Oculus Rift (If I can ever afford one), just to have a little escape from the stresses of daily life. Keep an eye on the developer as we go into the future of virtual reality, and its applications. Their stuff looks promising already, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.