VR Gardens- Virtual Gardening App Review

 Vr Gardens- Virtual Gardening was created by VR Gardens- a software company based in Dublin, Ireland. This company was founded by award-winning garden designer, Gary Hanaphy. VR Gardens is a 3D Virtual Reality designing app that lets users build a garden/backyard before executing the design in real life. The app is free to download, but primarily consists of in app purchases. Users can input measurements of a garden- or search for their personal one via Google Maps- and begin designing a model from there.

The concept of being able to experience and visualize your own backyard in a 360 space is innovative. The execution of this app as far as features and graphics is well done too. Navigating the app is flexible and the layout is not overly complex, making for a user friendly experience for everyone. First, you select the measurements of your garden. (Something to note is this app does not have a metric measurement converter available for the US users). The menu prompts different categories of items to place in your space. A variety of plants, paving, decking, swimming pools, furniture, etc. can be chosen from to insert into the yard. The user is able to click and drag the item to the exact spot they want to view it in. Because this app is supposed to provide a somewhat accurate representation of a real life space, the graphics have the capability of skewing that perspective. Although it would be ideal for the app to be able to somehow create a photograph of the user’s real garden and use real photos of furniture, I think the graphics are good for what they are. The graphics are not overdone in terms of detail and saturation. It is evident that they tried to keep it as minimal as possible. The idea of making a dream space come to life in 360 is exciting; but, there are a limited amount of items that are able to be used for free.

The majority of the app requires purchases. Always a catch! If the user decides to upgrade to the “pro” level, up to 30 gardens can be made compared to 2 with the free version. This app is useful for general visualizations of placement and basic layout, but ultimately I think it could expand in terms of its designing features. Right now, the furniture is not specific to any store or anywhere the user can actually purchase the furniture. The concept could drastically improve if the app partnered with home building/designing stores (i.e Home Depot, IKEA, Pottery Barn) to allow the user to test items on a more precise level. This would be a great method of advertising as well. Users might be more likely to purchase a piece of furniture from one of the select stores if they can see it virtually displayed their outdoor space at the click of a button.

Gardens can be created using the options on the menu panel. There is also a weather feature that allows you to view what the garden looks like in different conditions and times of day. (This is useful to test outdoor lighting). The pro version has endless options of furniture, tilings, plants, and landscape features to select from. There is an additional tab specifically for the free pieces that can be used.

When you complete your garden, you click a button to view the space in VR. This app would be most beneficial for anyone looking to buy a house, remodel a backyard, or add additions to their outdoor space. However, anyone interested in layout would have fun designing their own imaginary garden and viewing it in VR as well. Overall, the concept of this app is great, but there is definitely room for improvements.  An idea like this could really thrive in interior spaces as well. This app has potential to grow in many ways, especially after possibly partnering with home improvement companies. I think the pro version is worth it for home buyers/remodelers, and I would definitely recommend the free version to anyone who is curious about VR and design.

One Strange Rock: Space in 360

“I took a look at the planet at just sort of let it sink in. I thought to myself, ‘this is something that human eyes are not supposed to see. This must be the view from Heaven.’” When Mike Massimino along with three other astronauts boarded the space shuttle, they were not prepared for the life-changing events that would take place as they graced the galaxy above.

National Geographic’s One Strange Rockthe first ever VR filmed in space- lets viewers experience first hand what being in zero gravity is like. Award-winning filmmaker Darren Arnofsky was able to capture the beauty of the planet with the Vuze 4K VR Camera from Humaneyes Technology. The compelling narratives from the astronauts paired with breathtaking 360 views of our planet make this virtual reality story innovative and extremely emotionally effective.

This piece is not solely about being in space. There is no guided tour, facts about the sun, or asteroids flying past us. Instead, viewers are forced to simply be still and notice. The way the video is able to evoke emotion so well is through the storytelling technique-  the strongest part of the piece. The astronauts each voiced-over a section of the video, elaborating on how their perspective of earth changed after viewing it in person. Using astronauts to narrate allows for an intimate tone throughout the video. Their individual stories guide us toward the overarching theme of appreciating the beauty of the earth and life itself.

 

This use of an intimate tone helps reveal connection we as human beings have with each other and the earth. If a starker tone was used instead, it would have the complete opposite effect and make us feel disconnected and the mystery of the earth more remote. We are presented with 360 degree immaculate views of space, view of the interior space shuttle, and different atmospheric landscapes around the world. We feel a sense of enlightenment and gratitude for our amazing world by the end of the video.

Ultimately, there were no flaws in this piece. The video is appropriate for all ages, and the storyline is unique as are the visuals. The story being told in Virtual Reality is essential to the piece. We have seen several photographs of outer space throughout our lives to the point where we have become desensitized to the fact that there is an entire universe floating above us. However, reintroducing the universe using Virtual Reality brings back our awareness and curiosity that some have lost. Of course the amazing 4K quality drastically helps immerse the viewers too. Seeing textbook style photographs of the moon may feel repetitive, but actually feeling like you can reach out and touch the moon may open our eyes a little wider. We can become inspired and educated about the earth with a fresh eye– future generations are going to have a powerful learning device in the classroom too.

One Strange Rock is an example of innovation in Virtual Reality. The 3D visuals and creative use of narration by the astronauts makes for a nearly unbelievable virtual reality experience. Incomparable to any other Virtual Reality story I have seen, One Strange Rock a definite must watch.