Wander – Oculus Quest Review

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As one of the first apps to launch on to the Oculus Quest, Wander was one app that interested me the most. Why sit on a plane for countless hours where you can be transported instantly to your favourite destination around the world and have the freedom to roam around key landmarks and city streets. Wander scratches the explorer itch and more.

Wander is an application for the Oculus Quest that is very easy to describe. It’s basically Google Street View in VR. The 360-view nature of Google’s popular Street View functionality is a perfect match for VR. Wander has taken this resource and give its users a number of additional features to enhance the Street View experience.

On entering the app you face a world map. By simply using the left analogue stick to zoom in and out, and the right analogue stick to pan around the map, you can traverse the globe with ease and best of all, speed. You can be in New York and then in Singapore in a matter of seconds – try and do that on a plane!

Once you’ve picked your destination you select a spot on the map and pull the right trigger to transport yourself there. In a matter of seconds you’re standing in your selected spot where you can look around the 360 world. Imagery is taken from either Google Street View itself or provided by public members who have shared their 360 captured photos with Google. Depending on your internet connection and the resolution of the captured images, you do experience blurry photos, but these soon sharpen up in time to give you a nice clear view of your surroundings.

Lining the bottom of the map are a number of options. You can toggle the map on and off, view saved favourite locations and popular destinations, through to viewing select/popular hotspots near your current location.

One of the better features of Wander is the ability to travel back in time. No time machine is needed here. Depending on your selected location’s data, a date button will be available. With this button, you can toggle between the available years of captured footage from this location. Standing on London Bridge and going back a whole decade was a joy to see, as the London skyline is free from towering skyscrapers and buildings that clutter it today, along with changes in vehicles and fashion. 

As Google updates their records each year, and more and more data gets collected, Wander will surely grow in its ability to travel back in time and view locations from different time periods. Not all locations will support this ability as deeply as major cities around the world, but Google will no doubt return to locations that already have at least one year’s worth of photographic data.

Other notable features in Wander include the ability to use speech recognition to search for your desired location, however, I found this to be very hit and miss most of the time. This forced me into turn back to text entry every time or selecting the spot from the world map was just as quick.

If you wish to use Wander as a learning tool, you can use its popular location category option mixed with its Wikipedia integration to discover more than what you are able to see around you. You can also invite friends on other headsets to join in on your Wander session, thanks to its multiplayer support.

Wander becomes a really useful tool for scouting out key locations and hotspots for an upcoming holiday trip, and for kids, it is a great tool to enable them to travel the world within the comfort of your home and educate them on all of the greatest wonders of the world, with out that heavy family price tag.

One main aspect of Wander that I didn’t like was the height of your viewing position in every location. Due to the photos being captured from cameras mounted on top of Google vehicles or walking pedestrians, the view makes you feel like you are either really tall or you’re floating in the air. It’s a shame its developers couldn’t offset the view or allow people to adjust your height globally. With a title called Wander, you are certainly not on your feet.

It is good that Wander has a fairly low price of entry at $9.99 (£7.99) on the Oculus Store. Ideally, the app should be free, but I would rather pay a small fee than be given ads or have my data sold on. You can quite easily waste over an hour in the app whilst sharing your virtual globetrotting with friends and family. But after you’ve explored your current and past neighbourhoods and visited favourite past and future holiday destinations, it is hard to think how much I would be returning back to Wander. If you’re a budding globe trotter or you have an interest in exploring old and new locations around the world, give Wander a try.

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