Leeds has long had a reputation for fostering creatives, particularly in music, but many aren’t aware of it’s growing reputation as hub for emerging communities of incredible innovators in FinTech, MedTech and game development.
With so much exciting activity going on in the region, I’ve been looking to secure interviews with up-and-coming entrepreneurs in these fields for some time.
Not that I doubt my tenaciousness when it comes to securing new interviews, but until now I’ve been unsuccessful despite my best efforts. Enter my good friend Tom, the absolute legend.
Tom not only knows a developer working for one of these companies, the brilliant XR Games, but was kind enough to show them my original ‘Visual Trends: Virtuality‘ article when he heard they were looking to get exposure on their work.
Either Tom’s friend owed him a favour, or even LESS likely, they simply thought my article made for a good read because shortly after, they got in touch and asked me if I’d be happy to write something about their latest game, ‘All-Star Fruit Racing VR’. If I was up for it, they’d send me out a headset so I could try it out properly.
As you can imagine, I was IMMEDIATELY on board.
Already a gamer, I’ve been curious to try out VR in some way for ages, but have lacked the incentive to head out and buy the necessary equipment.
So before we get into how much I enjoyed Fruit Racing, I honestly want to take a minute to document my experience of being introduced to mobile VR.
It’s honestly one of those rare kinds of gadgets that sticks a big cheesy grin on your face when you try it for the first time. Where as soon as you’ve finished having your go, all you want to do is share it with the person next to you so you can watch them get as excited as you.
I haven’t felt that way about a piece of tech since I started painting with the iPad Pro.
When the card headset arrived in the post, straightaway I downloaded the Cardboard app and tried out some VR demos by slotting my Pixel 2XL in.
The demo included with Cardboard which stole the show for me is an amazing adventure-lite simulator simply called ‘Artic Journey’. On this demo, the controls of Google Cardboard are explained to you through a series of small tasks set in gorgeous polygon-art renderings of an arctic wilderness.
I was absolutely blown away.
Other highlights include the ‘Tour Guide’ feature which allows you to explore global cultural delights such as the palace of Versailles, and the ‘Earth’ feature which lets you fly around like Superman through 3D Google Maps locations like Chicago City and the Bryce Canyons mountain ranges.
Every person I’ve shared it with reacted in exactly the same way as me, so with that said, I wholeheartedly recommend spending £15 to get the cardboard headset and try it for yourself.
If I was to take one thing away from my experience, it’s how much that the VR platform so inherently has the ‘wow-factor’ when you get hands-on with it. As a platform, it’s dying for innovators to take advantage of it in new ways, whether through app-development, video marketing (which would blow people away) or anything else.
After browsing through Google Play’s library of things to do, I’m left wanting. Some games and apps exist but there’s simply not enough to do justice to the level of excitement you get after trying the headset for the first time.
All I want is to be able to sink hours more into VR and see every possible application of it’s use, and so has everyone else I’ve shown it to. I can see now that the future is bright for VR, and even brighter for people who adopt it as a platform for new innovations early.
After a pretty thrilling start to the world of VR, I was excited to discover for myself what XR Games had created. And like any good arcade-racer, it hooked me in after I finished my first race.
It’s tracks look deceptively simple to navigate, but expertly crossing its difficult turns and getting a high score requires a masterful control of your vehicle.
At the end of each race, you are given a score based on the time you’ve taken to complete your run and the number of coins you’ve grabbed along the way.
When using the VR controls to play, you steer the vehicle by turning your head. While it’s admittedly jarring at first to play a racing game this way, it doesn’t take more than a couple of laps before the controls start to feel familiar.
Playing Fruit Racing using VR controls is also helped by the fact that the game is gorgeous to look at; with it’s bright, colourful style reminiscent of Nintendo classics like Diddy Kong Racing.
All-Star Fruit Racing VR is a brilliant introduction to VR, offering tons of replay value and an awesome piece off tech which you’ll be excited to show off to your friends. It’s free to download from the Google Play Store so definitely check it out!
After playing their game, I knew I had a fantastic opportunity to not only get some answers to questions I had about the game development process, but also to long-standing questions I’ve had about a growing niche within the tech industry that can feel inaccessible to outsiders and people that failed to adopt to tech early.
Despite feeling skeptical about whether a busy company would be willing to answer some questions about the wider VR industry from the owner of a completely unknown blog; I asked if they’d be willing to answer questions beyond their recently released game.
To my pleasant surprise, XR Games said that wider questions on the industry would make for a better article and were fully on-board to answer whatever questions I had!
Holy sh*t right? What an amazing opportunity.
Read our interview here.
Thoughts? Feelings? Impressions? I’d love to know what’s in your brain!