37 non-gaming reasons why VR is amazing

37 non-gaming reasons why VR is amazing

Is VR just a form of gaming? Far from it! We show you why Virtual Reality has a future beyond VR games.

“What is VR good for?” When I have to answer this question for friends, I usually emphasize that VR is not just for gamers. Of course, the virtual world opens up entirely new game ideas. But for me, virtual reality is particularly fascinating when it takes me to a world I couldn't otherwise visit – whether it's far in the past or far across the globe. And when it comes to science, I think VR can often explain things better than any chemistry or biology book. That's why my answer to the question at the beginning is mostly a list of concrete examples.

Let's take the example of musicology: There is a difference between light music and serious music. I like playing VR games, but when a VR app takes me to ancient Rome, the Titanic, or the inside of a molecule, I get a little more excited. Because I can see something real that I couldn't see before, and because I learn something in the process.

Here is a list of the highlights in response to the question of what else VR is good for – apart from playing games. Unfortunately, not all apps are available for current VR headsets.


Anne Frank House


The hiding place of Anne Frank. | Image: Force Field

Platform: Quest (2, 3, Pro), Rift

This app has to be mentioned first. I often use it to demonstrate the power of the technology to VR newbies. Jaws are guaranteed to drop. I visit the famous 'Back House' in Amsterdam, where Anne Frank and her family hid for almost three years.

For anyone who hasn't queued up to see the original in Amsterdam, this is almost a substitute. Why is that? Because I can explore the rooms at my leisure, which look as if Anne had just walked out of them, and because the audio and text explanations put everything into a meaningful context.

Surrounded by other tourists, I don't have the peace and quiet to really soak up the frightening feeling that this hiding place must have given.

Website | Quest Store | Price: free

Historium VR – Relive the history of Bruges

Platform: SteamVR

An incredibly realistic experience is offered by this app, which takes me to the Belgian city of Bruges in the 15th century. First, I arrive at the port of this trading city on a large sailing ship, and then I take a rowboat to the city center. There I can take a closer look at the market square and the town hall. A great virtual journey through time.

Steam | Price: 7.99 Euro


Platform: SteamVR

The Britannic was the almost identical sister ship to the Titanic. I'm free to move around the ship, and of course, I can't help but think of the more famous Titanic. Whether on the magnificent staircase, in the sleeping cabins or in the swimming pool, I always have the feeling that the guests could return at any moment.

The highlight is the spectacular sinking of the giant ship, which I can experience on deck. After all, the Britannic served as a hospital ship in the Aegean Sea, where she encountered a German naval mine in 1916.

Steam | Price: 12.49 Euro

Titanic VR

Knapp zwei Jahre nahm die Arbeit an Titanic VR in Anspruch. Doch das Warten hat sich gelohnt: Die VR-Erfahrung ist ein großer Wurf geworden.

An exciting journey to one of the most famous ship tragedies of all time – in VR. | Image: Immersive VR Education

Platform: SteamVR

Unlike the Britannic, the Titanic was struck by an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Anyone who wants to relive the disaster – at least virtually – can do so in 'Titanic VR'. When I suddenly find myself in a lifeboat with women and children and the huge, supposedly unsinkable steamship tilts in front of me, I get a little scared.

In a scientific part of the VR app, however, I become a researcher using modern conservation methods to examine the remains of the disaster. You can even dive to the wreck in a submarine (which is particularly fun), collect artifacts and then clean them up.

Steam | Price: 19.99 Euro

VR Rome

Platform: SteamVR

This app gives me an idea of how big and splendid Rome must have been in 320 A.D., and how huge the porticoes, temples and baths were, or, for example, the statue of Nero in front of the Colosseum. Four square kilometers have been digitally reconstructed, and there are information panels and small 3D models of some buildings.

One handy feature is an overview map that I can open before me to jump directly to any particular place. The graphics are not photorealistic, but they are enough to give a good impression.

Steam | Price: 12.49 euros

Athens in VR

Platform: Oculus Go, Gear VR

With this VR app, I can be part of the ancient Athens of the great philosophers and poets. The Australian studio Lithodomos is responsible for this. They specialize in historical recreations in virtual reality.

It's really impressive to stand in front of the giant image of the goddess Athena, or the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Agora. All places that played an important role in Athenian life, in religion, in the birth of the Western world.

It is striking to see how amazingly colorful the statues were at that time, which we now know only as gray blocks of stone.

Oculus Go Store | Price: 2.99 euros


Platform: Rift

I've never been to Pompeii to see the well-preserved streets buried by volcanic ash in 79 AD. Now, with the help of a VR app, I can take a walk around part of the Italian city and take a look at the ruins. For example, I can get an idea of what life was like in the city at the time by entering a house, a bath, and a temple complex.

Oculus Rift Store | Price: 3.99 euros

Antarctic Heritage Trust

Platform: SteamVR

If you've ever wanted to visit the New Zealand Research Station in Antarctica, but don't have enough holiday days for a trip to the South Pole, check out this VR replica.

Built in 1956, this modest hut was where famous explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest, lived and worked, along with 23 other scientists. This VR experience was developed in collaboration with the University of Auckland. I can walk around freely and even pick up some objects.

Website | Steam | Price: free

Nefertari: Journey to Eternity

Das kann nur VR: Diese App beamt euch in eine ägyptische Grabkammer

Only VR can do that: This app beams you into an Egyptian burial chamber.

Platform: SteamVR

In this VR app, I descend into the tomb of the Egyptian queen Nefertari, wife of Ramses II, who lived 3,000 years ago. Thanks to photo scans, visiting this archaeological site feels surprisingly real. I can get up close to the colorful murals and move around the tunnel system – almost as if I were there.

Steam | Price: free

Age-Old Cities VR

Platform: SteamVR

How about a virtual visit to the ancient Arab sites of Mosul in Iraq, Aleppo, and Palmyra in Syria, and Leptis Magna in modern-day Lebanon, founded by the Phoenicians?

The photogrammetric scans of the sites are impressive, but unfortunately none of the four experiences are interactive. There's no movement, just a lot of looking. Unfortunately, nothing is explained either. The app has been developed in partnership with the UNESCO and Ubisoft.

Steam | Price: free

Roald Amundsen's House

Platform: SteamVR

Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen bought a house south of Oslo in 1908, right on the fjord, where he lived for 20 years. Virtual visitors will find the house exactly as he left it in 1928.

It was from here that he planned many of his expeditions, such as the first crossing of the Northwest Passage and the crossing of the Arctic by airship.

Steam | Price: free

“Tell me, Inge …”

In einem VR-Erlebnis könnt ihr mit einer Zeitzeugin des Zweiten Weltkriegs sprechen. Die 88-Jährige will so ihre Geschichte bewahren.

In a VR experience, you can talk to a contemporary witness of the Second World War. The 88-year-old wants to preserve her history this way. | Image: StoryFile, Meta

Platform: WebXR (link on the website starts VR, for example via Quest 2)

In this VR experience, I can personally ask Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher questions. She sits in her chair and waits for my questions, which I can ask via voice input.

Auerbacher survived the Theresienstadt ghetto as a 7-year-old. The VR experience is based on an interview with the old lady in New York in the year 2022. The idea is brilliant, and I wish more historical witnesses would be digitized in VR for posterity. Technically, however, there is still room for improvement.

Website | Price: free of charge

Nikola Tesla Experience

Platform: Viveport

The most important stages in the life of the dazzling nerd Nikola Tesla, who at the time was messing around with Thomas Alva Edison, are brought closer to me in this VR app. The Croatian-born eccentric engineer guides visitors through various chapters of his life.

Given the inventor's eventful life, there could have been more here, both visually and in terms of content. But if you can overlook the somewhat jerky animations, you will learn something new about this interesting figure in contemporary history.

Viveport | Price: free

7VR Wonders

Platform: SteamVR

The 7VR Wonders app doesn't make this best-of list because of its graphics, but because it illustrates a good idea: why not use VR to travel to places that no longer exist? These include the Seven Wonders of the World, such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Steam | Price: 7.99 Euro

Douarnenez VR

Platform: SteamVR

The small town of Douarnenez in Brittany lies by the sea. It is home to a small archaeological site where the Romans made “garum”, a spicy sauce made from fish and salt.

But it's not the rather simple virtual representation of the ancient Roman factory that makes this app so appealing, it's the beautiful model ship bobbing in the glittering digital water: the Norwegian galleon 'Anna Rosa', built in 1893. The graphics aren't exactly stunning, but if you're a fan of old sailing ships like me, you'll be pleased to know that you can take this model ship apart and put it back together again.

Steam | Price: free

VR Terra-Cotta Warriors

Platform: Viveport

I've never been to China's famous Terracotta Warriors, which the Chinese emperor had built around 240 BC to ensure their safe passage to the afterlife. But, of course, there are VR applications that allow you to virtually visit the tourist attraction. The best, in my opinion, is the one for Viveport. The graphics aren't great, but you still get a good idea of the size of the site.

Viveport | Price: free

1943 Berlin Blitz

Platform: SteamVR

This VR app has an almost eerie feel. I'm sitting in a British fighter plane on its way to Berlin to drop a bomb. The BBC's app is based on the original live recording of a reporter who was on that flight on 3 September 1943.

It is amazing how disciplined and tightly orchestrated this raid was. Fortunately, I am sitting in my living room at home and have no fear of being shot down by German anti-aircraft fire.

Steam | Price: free



Universe Sandbox

Infinite expanses, infinite setting possibilities. | Image: Universe Sandbox VR

Platform: SteamVR

I think Universe Sandbox is the best astronomy app VR has to offer. I find myself in the middle of the universe, playing with the Earth like a ball, adding other planets or moons and watching what gravity does to it.

A real interstellar sandbox and a must for anyone who wants to understand stars, planets, and everything else floating around in the universe. And really, a must for any physics class.

Steam | Price: 29 Euro

WebbVR: The James Webb Space Telescope

Platform: SteamVR

As the name suggests, this game lets me take a close look at the Webb Space Telescope and explains its various components. It is nice to be able to place objects next to the space telescope to compare their size. An elephant looks surprisingly small.

There is also a small astronomy application that lets me travel to the planets in our solar system. I can point the telescope at specific celestial objects, such as gas nebulae, galaxies or exoplanets, and get information about them.

Steam | Price: free


Platform: own

The fascinating thing about Nanome is that I can not only look at molecules, but also talk about them in real time with other virtual visitors. I get to understand how the world of chemistry works at the smallest level. I can modify molecules and bring in experts as avatars. However, the app is primarily designed for professionals to collaborate.

Nanome | Price: free

MEL VR Science Simulations

Platform: own

MEL Science's chemistry lessons are aimed at the public. Here I become a student again and understand chemistry in a whole new way. More than 70 paid lessons are available, covering everything from the structure of an atom to the behavior of chemicals.

A special highlight: I can playfully assemble the atoms of the elements of the periodic table as if they were Lego bricks. Thanks to this VR app, I understood the atomic structure better than in an entire year of chemistry lessons.

However, the apps are aimed more at the education sector and have very limited support for VR headsets such as the Pico G2 or Vive Focus.

Website | Free Trial, then fee required

Abelana's Atom Maker

Platform: SteamVR

The aim of “Atom Maker” is to assemble the elements of the periodic table from neutrons, protons, and electrons like a jigsaw puzzle. Although I shoot the individual particles as if with a laser gun, it is not a game.

The real fun comes when I take my time and try to understand what is happening and how the elements are put together. I would have loved something like this when I was at school.

Steam | Price: 8.19 Euro

Starman's VR Experience

Platform: SteamVR

This experience is more of a gag: I can travel to Tesla's bright red Roadster, which was launched into space on a SpaceX rocket in February 2018, along with the puppet “Starman”. He is now going to float around in space forever and ever, and this app will show you where Starman is at any given moment.

Steam | Price: free


Brink Traveler

Platform: Quest (2, 3, Pro), SteamVR

Brink Traveler for Meta Quest and PC VR compatible headsets brings the highest quality photogrammetric environments of real locations to VR. The VR app was released in 2021 and is regularly updated with new destinations and features. It currently features 28 international landmarks. Sites can be visited alone or with other VR users.

Steam | Quest Store | Price: 15 Euros

VR Japan

Platform: SteamVR

Scenes from modern Japan have been digitally recreated with such attention to detail that I can step inside and just marvel. I was in Japan myself a few years ago, and this app really manages to take me back to that holiday for a brief moment.

A subway station, an old temple, a small sushi restaurant or a Zen garden – you couldn't make a short trip to Japan easier, cheaper or more realistic.

Steam | Price: 8.19 Euro


Am 21. Dezember 2018 schließt das Bergwerk Prosper Haniel. Virtuell soll es weiterleben.

Down the shaft: WDR preserves coal mining digitally. | Image: WDR

Platform: SteamVR

WDR's virtual visit to a coal mine is a classic example of what virtual reality can do beyond gaming. Instead of being in my living room, I'm suddenly 1,000 meters underground in a dark tunnel, picking up a pickaxe and cutting coal like a miner a hundred years ago.

I can feel the heat in this inhospitable and dusty environment, and I can imagine that people back then just wanted to get up into the fresh air as quickly as possible.

Steam | Price: free

Perspectives: Paradise

Platform: SteamVR

Finnish journalists Mika Mäkeläinen and Jani Saikko have recreated the explosion of an atomic bomb and its effects using a VR app. On 1 November 1952, the United States detonated the first hydrogen bomb (nicknamed “Ivy Mike”) for testing purposes over Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

In the VR film “Paradise”, I stand on an island 10 kilometers away and can observe what is happening to nature around me.

Steam | Price: free

Blue Pot VR

Platform: SteamVR

In the VR app “Blautopf,” SWR tells a fairy tale about the huge cave system under the Swabian Alb. There, the “Beautiful Lau” is said to have lured visitors into the depths. Along the way, I learn about this fascinating cave, which also captivates me virtually with its deep blue water. The developers have combined this voyage of discovery with a kind of adventure game.

Steam | Price: free


Platform: SteamVR

Blueplanet will take you to 50 different and fascinating places around the world – from stunning natural landscapes to places of cultural interest. These include caves in the US state of Utah, where people lived 9,000 years ago, and a glacier in Iceland. The scenes have been photogrammetrically measured to create a highly realistic impression in the VR headset.

Website | Steam | Price: 20.99 euros



Visit a glacier in photorealistic virtual reality. | Image: Realities

Platform: SteamVR

Realities is one of the apps that really shows what VR can do. I visit photogrammetrically scanned locations such as Cologne Cathedral, Death Valley, the Beelitz healing sites near Potsdam, prehistoric caves and glaciers in Canada, and Alcatraz prison.

Steam | Price: free


Platform: SteamVR

In this VR experience, I can walk around the Palace of Versailles on my own, away from the tourist crowds. I visit the historic Hall of Mirrors (proclamation of the Prussian Empire in 1871, peace treaty in 1919) and the large, magnificent adjoining rooms.

Objects such as paintings and clocks are realistically reproduced thanks to photogrammetry, and some are accompanied by explanatory text panels. I can also go to the Opera of Versailles. The great Jean-Baptiste Lully conducted there, and Molière performed his plays.

Website | Steam | Price: free


Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling in VR

Epic Games digitalisierte die Sixtinische Kapelle für Virtual Reality

The interior of the Sistine Chapel, including Michelangelo's famous ceiling painting.

Platform: Download

As the name suggests, this app offers a visit to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. Without large groups of tourists, I can get up close and personal with the world-famous paintings of the greatest Renaissance painters.

Website | Price: free

The Night Cafe: A VR Tribute to Vincent van Gogh

Platform: SteamVR

With this VR app, you can walk right into the middle of a painting by Vincent van Gogh. The setting of the painting 'The Night Cafe' becomes a stage on which I can walk around.

Steam | Price: free

Eye of the Owl – Bosch VR

Platform: SteamVR

Eye of the Owl is in the same vein as The Night Cafe. Here I can get a closer look at the famous painting 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' by the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch from 1490. The scene is embedded in the artist's studio, and Bosch himself explains details of the painting to me.

Steam | Price: free

Art Plunge

Platform: SteamVR

I can really immerse myself in five famous paintings from the history of the world: the Mona Lisa, Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night, Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam and Jan Vermeer's Reading a Letter at an Open Window. Who hasn't imagined what the surroundings of the painted scene might have looked like? A perfect application for VR.

Steam | Price: 1.59

Mona Lisa: Beyond The Glass

Mona Lisa up close and personal. | Image: Emissive

Platform: SteamVR

In Mona Lisa: Beyond The Glass, I visit the Louvre in Paris. The best part: I have Leonardo da Vinci's most famous painting all to myself. In the process, I get much closer to the famous Italian lady from the 15th century than I would ever be able to in a crowded museum.

Steam | Price: free

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