So you’ve just bought yourself an Oculus Quest. Hello, wireless VR with head and hand-tracking!
You’re probably going to download a bunch of games (we highly recommend Beat Saber, Sports Scramble, and SuperHot VR to get you started). But there’s a whole lot more to do in VR on the Quest beyond slicing rhythm cubes and dodging bullets in slow-motion.
With the right app, you can do stuff your parents could only dream of doing, like running your Windows PC (all of it) in virtual space, or painting in 3D, or watching movies with friends that live on the opposite side of the world on a massive theater-sized screen.
Before you strap on the Quest and grab its controllers, check out these 11 non-gaming apps we’ve tried out. Oculus is promising more to come, but for now these are the ones we think every Quest owner should check out first.
1. Apollo 11
Space geeks will get a real kick out of Apollo 11. The VR app recreates the historic mission to the moon from launch to landing.
Developer Immersive VR Education worked its butt off to simulate what the feeling of leaving Earth through the eyes of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Though, the interactive parts aren’t very deep, Apollo 11 is an excellent example of how VR can bring us to places we’d normally not be able to visit.
2. Bigscreen Beta
On the surface, Bigscreen Beta is a hassle-free way to stream your Windows PC to a screen in VR. But using Bigscreen Beta by yourself to run your PC on a larger screen defeats the point of the VR app, which is to enjoy content with other people.
You can easily create a theater-sized VR room and invite friends to watch movies or TV shows together or join one of the many public virtual movie theaters that already exist; I watched I Am Legend for about 30 minutes with strangers and it didn’t feel weird at all.
The app’s cross-platform so you’ll likely meet people who are on Oculus and HTC Vive headsets. Just don’t spend too much time oohing and ahhing or you will probably get yelled at by somebody like I did.
3. Nature Treks VR
Nature Treks is arguably one of the most relaxing VR experiences in my opinion. Once loaded up, the VR app lets you visit nine locations such as an island beach, grassy meadow, or savannah. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even go into space and watch as planets orbit the sun.
The actual locations themselves are small (you won’t be able to go beyond certain boundaries in the distance), but even so the atmospheric music and calm environments are enough to quickly put you at ease unless you’re the kind of person who hates nature.
4. Ocean Rift
Billed as a “VR aquatic safari park,” Ocean Rift is an enjoyable exploration of Earth’s oceans. The VR experience gives you an up-close look at 12 different underwater habitats and the creatures that live in them. Ever wanted to see a shark up close but never had the guts to do it IRL? No problem, Ocean Rift is the perfect way to do it without a) getting wet and b) being put in harm’s way.
Sure, you can always visit an aquarium to see dolphins and turtles, but can you see a whale or dinosaur? Not a chance. However, with Ocean Rift, the admission price is less than most movie tickets.
5. Rec Room
You probably already know this, but VR can be a very isolating experience and most games on Quest so far are single-player. With Rec Room, you can meet up and “hang” with friends in a number of user-created rooms in VR, kind of like a virtual forum.
Unlike most VR games, you don’t need to really do anything inside of Rec Room. While I mostly went in to chat with peeps (the app supports multiple platforms and anyone with an Oculus VR headset, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, or Windows Mixed Reality headset can join in), there are a handful of multiplayer games like dodgeball and paintball you can play in. One thing worth noting: About 25 percent of player-created rooms available on other VR headsets won’t be accessible at launch; future updates will reportedly add them in.
The graphics sure aren’t anything to write home about, but what you give up in visuals, you gain in gameplay and a sense of community.
6. SKYBOX VR Video Player
YouTube VR (see below) is a great way to watch VR content uploaded online, but if you want to view large, high-resolution videos, you’re going to want to use SKYBOX VR Video Player. It’s sorta like VLC Player, but for VR headsets.
With SKYBOX, you can view videos locally or stream them from a connected PC. The app supports a ton of video formats such H.265, VP9, WEBM, and Blu-ray, and can automatically detect them so there’s no need to do any extra encoding for playback. I played a legally ripped Blu-ray copy of Interstellar in 4K and it was a more cinematic experience than watching it on my 46-inch HDTV.
7. Sling TV
If you subscribe to Sling TV for your TV programming, there’s good news: You can watch all of its content on a virtual 180-inch display on the Quest, too.
The Sling TV app for Oculus Quest is identical to the one on Oculus Go and comes with a basic point-and-click interface. Navigating around channels is a no-frills VR experience, but it gets the job done.
8. Tilt Brush
Tilt Brush was one of the breakout non-game apps on the original Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and it’s even more immersive without a cable literally holding you back from painting in 3D space.
On the Quest, painting in 3D virtual space is just as fun and simple. Whether you’re doing a quick doodle with brushes like fire or stars, or drawing something more complex, Tilt Brush has enough depth to keep you entertained for hours. Nothing beats walking around a 3D painting.
9. Virtual Desktop
The name tells you everything you need to know about Virtual Desktop: You can use your computer in VR. Basically, instead of a computer monitor, you get a virtual screen for your Windows PC (8.1 or 10 works) almost as if you were interfacing with computers in Minority Report.
It’s a barebones app that does one thing, but it actually works and it’s really sweet to be able to do all your computing in the virtual space. The Oculus Touch controllers can even be used to replace gestures for things like pinch-to-zoom.
Remember Second Life or PlayStation Home, where people from over the world could create virtual avatars and just chill in digital space? VRChat is like that, but way bigger.
Less of a game and more of a whole bunch of VR communities, VRChat lets you explore a crazy amount of community-created virtual rooms and mingle. The controls take some getting used to and the visuals can be primitive if you’re looking for more realism, but once you get to know a few buddies, things can get wild (in good and bad ways). Follow the rules and you’ll be alright!
11. YouTube VR
Slicing and dicing rhythm blocks in Beat Saber is hella fun and all, but for those times you want to just sit back and watch videos by your favorite video creators, there’s YouTube VR.
The app, which is beefed up version of the one released for Oculus Go, has over 1 million “VR videos” that let you look around in 360-degrees. Not all of them have depth, though. If VR videos aren’t your cup of tea, you can also watch any regular YouTube video in 2D on a big VR screen, which is still neat.