VR Classics: 'Wander'

Oculus Blog
Posted by Hayden Dingman
September 10, 2021

Want to know what Quest experience I’ve spent the most time with over the years? No, it’s not Pistol Whip or Beat Saber or Echo VR or...well, anything most people would expect, I think.

It’s Wander.

Where do you want to go? The Pyramids? The Grand Canyon? The Louvre? Wander puts the entire world at your fingertips. Load it up and you may find yourself staring at a Japanese castle or Niagara Falls or the vaulted ceiling of Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral—but where you go next is up to you. Meander through the streets of Berlin, Mumbai, and Kyoto. Use it for virtual travel, or for planning a real-life trip. Take Yale’s (excellent) course on Roman Architecture and then visit the Colosseum or Hadrian’s Villa.

What I love most about Wander though is that (in my experience at least) people are less interested in “the world” than they are in their world. People want to see the Grand Canyon—if they’ve been to the Grand Canyon. And then they want to reminisce about that vacation, about how they hiked down this-and-that trail to see the bottom, or how so-and-so ran out of gas and had to wave down a passing car for help.

It gets people talking, putting to rest the idea that VR can’t be a social experience. And you don’t even have to be in the same room! If your friends and family have their own headsets, you can group up in Wander and tour the world together. Relive an old family vacation together—or look to the future and plan a new one.

Wander has no story per se, but people bring stories to it: The house they grew up in, the school they attended, that vacation they took three summers ago, that neighborhood they lived in for a year, that museum they visited with their grandparents, the restaurant they stopped in on a road trip half-remembered. Everyone (or nearly everyone) has a place they love or feel attached to but haven’t seen in years.

That makes Wander a perfect first VR experience as well. I’ve introduced quite a few friends and family members to VR since the Oculus developer kit era, and Wander is one of the first apps I turn to nowadays. It helps people understand how powerful VR can be—because it’s a real place they’re visiting. It conjures up memories and contextualizes what we mean by “virtual reality.”

Better yet: It’s available on Quest, which is where I’m typically demoing these days. I have a soft spot for Google Earth VR as well, which lets you explore the world in miniature, zooming in from outer space and then landing in a diorama-scale version of New York City or the Himalayas or Stockholm. It’s incredible—but Google Earth VR is only available on the Rift Platform, either with a dedicated headset or via Oculus Link or Air Link. So much of the appeal is showing Wander to new people, and the Quest is perfect for that.

Wander is also better for navigating interior spaces (i.e. The Louvre and other museums) thanks to a more functional map, allows you to travel back in time and see how locations looked years ago (data permitting), and has the aforementioned multiplayer support.

All in all, I find myself turning to Wander on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s for 10 minutes, other times for an hour or more. I just got back from a motorcycle trip, and before I left I spent a few nights in Wander scoping out campsites and finding the curviest route there and back. Wandering, you might say.

Wander is available on the Quest Platform.