15 Ideas That Will Make You Reconsider Virtual Reality

What can virtual reality be when you forget about video game cliches? These experimental apps ponder that question.


We’ve heard a lot of talk about virtual reality, but what will people actually do with it, other than make a more immersive Call of Duty sequel? Right now, Oculus and Samsung are hosting a sort of VR hackathon that’s generating hundreds of new VR experiences that can run on a phone strapped to your face. From realistic surgical simulators, to apps that explore a spiritual sensation of death, here are 15 of our favorites.

The Night Cafe

The crown jewel of this collection, The Night Cafe allows you to walk into a Vincent van Gogh painting. And it looks incredible.

Psious Toolsuite

[Update: This video appears to have been taken down.]

Immersion therapy helps patients overcome phobias. Psious Toolsuite is a platform that allows a therapist to place patients into their worst fears, and chart their progress towards overcoming them, all via two smartphones.



Billed the world’s first “bullet simulator,” you play as the bullet flying through 3-D environments to take down bad guys. Its gameplay and styling are both reminiscent of the bullet time simulator Superhot. (That’s a compliment.)


Tired of starring at the cement wall in front of your elliptical? So are we. RunShine will place you somewhere beautiful during your workout.


Developers mounted two GoPros to a surgeon’s head during surgery. And from that, they built a VR experience, allowing surgeons in training to watch a procedure first-hand. (Though they can’t control it.)


In A Darkened Room

What’s it like to be interrogated? This game will let you find out. Your mouth is gagged, so you’ll need to type out your responses on a keyboard. Try not to say the wrong thing.

Jaywalk: Fortune Favors the Brave

This first-person reinterpretation of Frogger will teach you the significance of the crossing light.


You play the warden in this prison simulator. See someone try to escape, and you blow a real whistle to stop them. It’s a simple, clever, physical interaction to control an otherwise virtual game.


Tana Pura

What’s it like to die? Hopefully as tranquil as Tana Pura, which explores transition of the soul from your physical body to the afterlife, as suggested in The Tibetan Book of the Dead and The Psychedelic Experience.


This virtual learning simulator seats you in a classroom to attend a holographic lecture with many other people. Why simulate a classroom? Because the social experience of teaching (and hearing others’ questions) is key to learning, developers say.


To test your focus, you control this unique puzzle game by holding your gaze in the right spot.



A psychedelic magic carpet trip, mixed with architecture and shopping? Sign us up.

Castle VRuin

This experience allows you to walk around a German medieval town that has been photographed by a drone, and re-assembled as a walkable experience. It feels like beautiful, boring sightseeing. For better and worse.

Project Elysium

We’ve all lost people who are important to us. Project Elysium proposes reconstructing family and friends who have passed and allowing you to see them again, as 3-D figures. Too ambitious to pull off at the moment? Probably. But a powerful idea all the same–and one that’s not so far from our reality.


We Are Cranes

An ingenious bit of game design for VR–you control a building crane. And as you progress and get higher, so does your feeling of vertigo. The challenge becomes keeping your fear of heights in check.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach