Hamburg's VR hotspots
Five ways to immerse yourself in virtual worlds
Keen to experience virtual reality live, without the expense of buying a VR headset? We've put together five recommendations in Hamburg - for gamers, golfers and music fans. For some of the opportunities you don't even have to leave the sofa.
Photos: Roeler / PuttView
Reality is not enough: today, VR glasses (nerd-speak: head-mounted display, HMD for short) give everybody the chance to get out of the real world for a while. Most of the field of view is filled with video screens running virtual content – games, animations or 360° videos, for example. Motion sensors in the headset measure head movement, some systems also measure the wearer's position in the room. That means you can move more or less freely in your virtual space.
What are the possible kinds of space? You name it. Research institutions such as the Zentrum für Angewandte Luftfahrtforschung (ZAL; Centre of Applied Aeronautical Research) run VR presentation spaces, for example, where technical components can be inspected even during development. The Absolute Software company builds flight simulators, digital vehicle configurators or virtual trade show displays. Game designers develop games, artists and designers whole virtual worlds.
With augmented reality, on the other hand, you're still looking at the real world – the virtual space is displayed on top, like a second level. That could mean environment-based overlays on the smartphone, for example. Jeff Koons' virtual balloon dog in Central Park, New York only exists on screen (which didn't stop one graffiti artist from remodelling the virtual artwork to his own liking).
So there's a lot going on in virtual space. But enough chatter – here are five places in Hamburg to experience it for yourself.
Shovelling mountains of coal, loading cargo and operating old machinery: the “Speicherstadt digital” exhibition in the Dialoghaus takes you into the life of a dock worker around 100 years ago. For example, you can use the special virtual reality glasses and controllers available to re-enact working in the Speicherstadt's boiler house. The VR elements were developed by the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW). This virtual experience is available until the end of March 2018, it takes 20 minutes including instruction time. If you prefer to avoid queues, you can register here in advance.
StreamCaching – Augmented Sound
A great enhancement for clever city explorers: the long-term installation StreamCaching adds digital artworks to the concept of geocaching. The makers have hidden eleven combinations of music and visuals at selected Hamburg locations. These miniature artworks are tailored to the specific location and its environment, architecture and history. The “listening points” can be downloaded with short links which you'll find on little StreamCaching stickers along the way as you stroll through the city. There's also an overview on Google-Maps available.
TowerTag at Lazerfun Mundsburg
The option for gamers: the first Europe-wide TowerTag-Arena has opened in the striking tower blocks of Mundsburg. The virtual reality shooter developed by Hamburg studio VR-Nerds is designed for several players. Equipped with a “laser tag phaser” (in other words: a toy gun) and a haptic vest, you move in a virtual world full of 3D effects, jump from platform to platform and fight for victory. The aim of the game is to “tag” the opponent's avatars without being hit yourself. A round lasts six minutes, the game is limited to four players.
PuttView in the Golflounge Hamburg
This one's more for specialists: PuttView in the Golflounge Hamburg. Startup company Viewlicity has developed a system that improves golf training using augmented reality. The specific application: putting. Because of the sloping ground, a golf ball rarely rolls the last few metres to the hole in a straight line. PuttView therefore calculates the ideal line of the ball to the hole from the angle of inclination and the selected stroke speed, and visualises it with a projector aimed at the ground. The target direction and correct foot position are also displayed. The application can be controlled by the player or trainer using a tablet app.
Rundum.Hamburg – around the city in 360°
Now for a little bit of self-advertising: If you're interested in exploring a 360° view of Hamburg, the best place to do it is probably the Rundum.Hamburg online platform. For both long-time connoisseurs and first-time tourists, one click takes you to the heart of the metropolis on the river Elbe. The perspective can be freely selected. To look around you, all you need to do is move your smartphone from right to left. Our author Andra Wöllert tested it – and embarked on a trip around Hamburg, without ever leaving the sofa …