Read our other trip reports here.
LSD and the Oculus Rift
We first picked up an Oculus Rift in October 2017, along with a Falcon NW Talon. We learned of Falcon NW while visiting the Oculus HQ in Menlo Park, where Oculus developers were using the Talon desktop. If it was good enough for the Oculus development team, it was going to work for our needs. The Talon would be a dedicated Oculus machine, and we loaded it up with as many quality bits of software we could find.
We equipped it with an Intel® Core™ i9-7920X 12 Cores - 24 Threads - 4.4GHz processor, 32 gb of memory and a .5 TB SSD. And attached an Oculus Rift with Oculus Touch controllers.
The machine is only used for the Oculus, with all software other than Oculus related software stripped off of it. It runs fast and clean.
Getting Ready to Trip with the Oculus
Prior to the trip we ensured all software was up to date, that we had played around with every program we intended to test so that we had a good familiarity with the controls, and left everything in ready-to-go condition.
When the Oculus Works Best
We find that our trips go through various, but farily predictable phases, which we have written about here. We have found that the Oculus works best during the comedown phases, and also fairly well in the early phases. However, during the peak phases of a trip we find the lighting on the headset too intense, the challenge of trying to load software to be significant, and overall the experience not as rewarding as other times during the trip.
Oculus Games and Experiences
We tried both VR Games (which require significant active interaction) and VR Experiences (which require less interaction and little or no real-time reactions). Our prior experience with video games on LSD is that we enjoy watching other people play, but find playing ourselves taxing or overwhelming. This proved true for the Oculus as well. Oculus games, which require real time reactions, seemed mainly stressful, and sometime a bit unpleasant. But fortunately, there as many amazing VR experiences, that worked well. However, if you find that you enjoy actually playing video games on LSD, we encourage you to send us feedback on your experiences, and we will incorporate them into the reviews below.
Hands on Reviews
We experimented with as many Oculus programs as feasible and these were our favorites. This list is being updated for new experiences as we have them.
Fantasynth: Chez Nous
Holy cow, this one is awesome. The experience starts with a dark room and an EDM song playing. For a while we thought the experience would be limited to looking around this club environment, with the cool atmospheric feel. But soon you start moving through various environments.
You don't need to do anything but watch, and this is a great one to try for the first time while tripping since there is no learning curve. It evoked strong positive emotions, was literally thrilling at points, causing our hearts to race, and other times was more mellow and atmospheric. The music is by N'To, an electronic techno artist, and a founder of the Hungry Music Label. What an amazing showcase for this song!
YouTube VR and 360 Videos
Playing YouTube 360 is a pain, but it's worth learning how to do so in advance of a trip to make it possible to watch the videos when tripping. We have written a short guide on how to do so. Once setup, watching YouTube VR videos can be entertaining and intense. A playlist of some of our favorite videos 360 videos can be found here. Our favorite YouTube VR videos are here.
Soundself is one of those experiences that we enjoy and want to love, but can't fully recommend it due to its price and stage of development. First, it's in perpetual beta, and while fully functional, its implementation is not as smooth as we would hope. Second, it costs $30. Third, it's not native on the Oculus platform, and therefore you need to enable third-party software from the settings menu and launch it directly from your PC. All this adds up to a disappointment in what could be a great piece of software. That said, it's a cool experience.
This game was specifically designed to mimic an acid trip. What makes it unique is that the game interacts with sounds you make, so you influence the visual experience. It also produces an audio in response to the sounds you make, for an odd and cool human-device feedback loop.
The graphics are cool, odd and complex. This isn't simply a geometric pattern coming at you, although there are a lot of geometric patterns coming at you. You can turn strobbing off or turn it to normal or intense modes.
The strobing can be intense, and while tripping we keep it off or on the lower setting. If you decide to take the plunge, this is one you want to play with while sober, not only to learn how to launch it, but then how to maximize your experience using it. You may want to try it with music and see if you enjoy the experience of the music influencing the visuals too.
In addition to the price tag, you'll need your mouse handy to launch the program. You will also went to keep your head fairly steady looking forward.... if you try to look around the graphics will become choppy and reposition to your new head position, taking you out of the experience.
There is also a little bit of a dark feeling on this one, especially the audio. So if you want to keep things happy and light, this may push you in a different direction.
The was a kickstarter with a launch date of 2014, another launch date of 2017, and no blog enteries since 2016. I would love to see a polished version of this in the Oculus store with a $20 price tag. For now, if you have cash to spend, it's a pretty fantastic, albeit unpolished, piece of software.
Aircar was the first program I played on Oculus on LSD and it holds a special place in my heart. My first time with Aircar was tripping, so I had to learn the controls and navigate it while very intoxicated, which I wouldn't recommend. But I managed to get the controls down pretty quickly, and soon felt absolutely lost in the simulation. I recall repeating to myself "don't forget, this isn't real. Don't forget this isn't real", having some concern for my mental health. I never lost track that it was just a simulation, but disturbingly, when I removed the headset I suddenly decided that all of existence is simply a simulation. Ahhh LSD. Don't try to beat it, just enjoy the ride.
And enjoy the ride I did in Aircar. The graphics are fantastic, and you can fly as slowly and carefully as you desire, since there is no time pressure to do anything. Just fly and enjoy the rain on the windshield, and the feeling in your stomach as you dive or turn. It's easy to believe you are in a Blade Runner world and become fully immersed.
Dreams of Dali
Dreams of Dali is easy to use and very promising, but not as immersive or engaging as we had hoped, mainly due to the way movement works (little transportation jumps, not free motion). However, it is a solid bit of software, with some beautiful surrealistic imagery. With a little tweaking to allow free roaming through the environment, this would be an absolutely epic experience. It is absolutely free of charge, and very much worth giving a try.
Music Visualizers, GrooVR and Vision
[UPDATED as of 5.14.18]
One of our greatest disappointments on the Oculus is the quality of music visualizers. A good visualizers should have striking visuals that integrate with your music. It should be easy to set up and play music from a variety of sources, including online streaming or locally saved music. As of now, we haven't found the killer visualizer. But here are the two we use most: GrooVR and Vision.
GrooVR integrates virtual worlds to your music, in pretty striking ways. GrooVR comes with one free world, and for $10 you can buy three more (or buy a single world for around $4)
In theory, you can use music that's built into the app, music saved locally on your PC or Soundcloud. GrooVR used to support Spotify Premium, and the GrooVR support webpage suggests that it is still supported.... but it's not, at least on the Oculus Platform. Which is a shame.
But that leaves you with Soundcloud and locally saved music, if you want music of your choice.... Except for us, the program can never access our locally saved music, and won't actually play anything from our Soundcloud account ("Cannot connect to Soundcloud"). Leaving the songs that are built into GrooVR.
Until recently you could still stream music off of your computer, through the Oculus headset and the program would react to it or have the microphone engaged to allow ambient music to control your visiuals. But this functionality too seems to have disappeared. Leaving Groovr as a worthless piece of software right now.
So why include GrooVR in our list? Because this is the third time we've updated our reviews based on GrooVR updates. When GrooVR was working the way we wanted it to, it was fantastic. We are hoping a future update will put GrooVR back on top. And they are iterating updates fairly quickly, so we will be surprised if they don't get the licensing issues and tech issues sorted soon enough.
Vision allows you to specify whether it should react to music in the room, music fed through the Oculus headset or must being sent through any sound cards you have on your PC. You then configure some basic video parameters that will impact the look and feel of every video effect. Once set up you can then scroll through quite a few different visual effects, as shown in the video. You can also equip "toys", the most entertaining of which are glowing fingertips, which work fairly well at recreating you favorite rave gloves.
For each visual effect you can cutomize several parameters, to get nice variations.
Note, Vision, some users complain that the app does not respond to the music. This is a configuration error. You must specify the source of the apps music in the setup window. If you have specified your headset, for example, but do not have music being pushed through your headset, the software will not react, even if the music is on your computer.
Note: The prior crashing issue we were having (and reported in the last version of this review) has disappeared with the latest update.
Great, but Dark Experiences
There are some experiences that are really good. But dark. All of these should likely be watched sober to determine whether they are suitable during any trip.
Surge is a music video experience that only last a few minutes but evokes strong emotions. Maybe too strong. The video starts out slowly with some pulsing cubes, but a bright light appears soon enough. To me this appeared to be a nueclear blast. To the developer it is a sun. Who am I to argue? (It's totally a nuclear blast that turns into a sun.)
This is an impressive short experience, but on LSD is jarring. If you are looking for intensity, and in a place to deal with it, Surge will not disappoint.
Show it 2 Me
Show It to Me, is an interactive electronic music video. It has a gritty feeling, and some might find the vibe of the video to be challening (skulls, knives and demonic images are all there). But the music is great, the visuals are fast moving. And the limited interactions can be ignored, or enjoyed.
Senza Peso, a mini-Opera
Set in a beautiful, but dark, surreal world, this music works so well on LSD. But wow, dark stuff.
Fully immersive, complex images, and a engaging story. This experience is haunting, from the first moment as a water drop morphs into a glass flower, which is made only to be broken....