Sky VR review: We’ve gone eyes-on with Sky’s new virtual reality offering, but what is Sky VR, how does it work and how can you try it for yourself? Here’s our full Sky VR review, giving a glimpse at the future of Sky and indeed the future of television.
Sky has long been on the cutting edge when it comes to using sexy tech to enhance the home television viewing experience. From gripping 3D content to gorgeous 4K UHD visuals, we’ve seen plenty of evolution in recent times – capped off by the excellent multi-screen Sky Q service. But Sky’s next jump forward has broken free of the television to offer us virtual reality experiences, right on our faces.
Sky VR is available right now and here’s our in-depth review of the full experience and all of the available content.
Read next: What can I watch now in 4K on Sky TV?
Sky VR review: What is Sky VR?
The Sky VR app, available right now for iOS and Android, offers plenty of free virtual reality video experiences to be enjoyed on your smartphone. These allow the wearer to look around a virtual environment a full 360-degrees, for a more immersive experience when enjoying sports, documentaries and other shows.
It’s almost like having control of the camera, offering impressive freedom and quality visuals using nothing more than a mobile phone and a VR headset.
How can I try Sky VR for myself?
The Sky VR app can be downloaded right now onto any iOS and Android smartphones, for use with a VR viewer headset.
Headsets can be bought for around a tenner, as they’re essentially two lenses in a cardboard box that holds your phone. Check out our guides on the best VR headsets and how to get started with VR for more info.
Once you’ve downloaded the Sky VR app, you’ll be asked if you want to use a headset or just the phone on its own. This means anyone can use Sky VR even without a headset, simply by moving their phone around in front of their face. But for the real immersive experience, you’ll need the head gear too.
Does Sky VR work with the Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream View?
Good news if you’re already invested in the mobile VR ecosystem. Sky VR also works with Samsung’s Gear VR, with the app available to download from the Oculus Store. And Sky just announced Daydream View support for the app too. So owners of the handful of mobile phones that support Google’s Daydream platform can also get involved.
Do I need to be a Sky customer to use Sky VR, and how much does it cost?
Good news, skinflints. Sky VR is completely free for anyone to use. You don’t need to be a Sky customer to give it a try and the app is free to download. So beyond the cost of your smartphone and that VR headset, the thrifty can fully enjoy some Sky VR action.
Sky VR review: Enter the experience
From sports to movies to documentaries, the Sky VR app showcases everything the company is famous for delivering, only in 360-degrees. There are initially about 20 unique experiences available on the free download, which hopefully will be expanded soon.
Even the introduction demo is fun as you’re led by David Beckham through the virtual worlds of sport, from standing in the pits at the Formula One to ringside boxing to teeing off in the golf.
Each time you’re free to take in the entire surrounds, by glancing around wherever you like. Still, these are very much videos that you’re guided through, rather than fully interactive VR experiences where you actually change the outcome.
In the Sky VR menu section, you’re presented with quick links to the available content, which can be accessed with a quick click of the Google Cardboard’s top button.
Select the boxing, for example, and you’re given a choice to download or stream. We found streaming over Wi-Fi meant quality took a few seconds to get nice and clear, but it was good enough to forgo downloading if you’re low on space or want an instant experience. When you consider these are two video images displayed side by side, with full stereo sound, you’re looking at a few hundred megabytes for each experience. So streaming is storage space friendly and buffering doesn’t seem to be a problem, if you’re on a decent connection.
Sky VR review: Sporting VR events
Considering Sky has only just launched its VR experience, there’s quite a bit of content to pick from.
Anthony Joshua: Becoming World Champion is a nice little video that take you into the boxer’s world before, during and right after his title winning fight. It’s like you’re part of his team and have the best view throughout. Not only can you see the knockout punches clearly, but you can glance around to see the crowd go wild as if you’re really there. Atmospheric stuff.
F1: Team WIlliams is another cool video that lets you experience Formula One from behind the scenes. You get an up close look at the cars and the race excitement, all while being able to nose about the pits to see more than the normal cameras might reveal.
Sky VR review: VR movies experience
While entire blockbuster movies aren’t in VR on Sky just yet there are some cool experiences available.
One of The Jungle Book experiences lets you see the world from the eyes of Mowgli. You can see just how big the king of the swingers really is for what turns out to be quite a scary experience. Then as Baloo the bear comes in to break up the tension, you genuinely feel relief. This teases just how much more emotionally immersive cinema is going to be in the near future.
Suicide Squad has an entertaining VR experience too, which is more fun than the actual movie. It starts off as if you’re watching a video feed and before you can grumble about it being 2D, you’re seamlessly placed into the view of a movie character. You then experience a fast-paced battle before being taken back in from one actor’s perspective to see how hard it all was to film. All very impressive and unique as an extra. Although it takes the fantasy out of the fight a little, as it seems less real when you can see it all moving slowly and mechanically.
Sky VR review: Real world experiences
Sky has also included more real-world experiences like Calais: The Jungle. This takes you into the port town of northern France where people are living in slum-like conditions having fled their war-torn homes. You can read about this and see it on the news, but actually being there is the best way to get emotionally involved.
This highlights how powerful a tool VR could be in the near future, to plunge us beyond the headlines and hearsay and actually show us what’s happening in the world.
Sky VR review: Verdict
Sky VR is simply bloody wonderful. The content that’s already available is well produced and involving, not to mention diverse enough to cater for all tastes.
The Sky VR app itself is free and will be updated with new content regularly, giving you plenty of reason to return. A Google Cardboard or similar headset is super affordable and works for lots of other VR experiences too, so there’s no real reason not to get involved if you’ve got a phone with a decent screen and a worthy ‘net connection.
The only negative we can find is limited content, right now at this early stage. But with more coming soon it’s not something we’re complaining about.