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Need a Vacation? Here, Put On These VR Goggles.

"Americans are the absolute worst at taking time off for themselves." Can Oculus help?

Cubicle Ninjas

Amid other challenges, virtual reality still carries a stigma of being socially isolating.

Well, when life gives you lemons …

“We want to take these perceived negatives and turn them into positives,” Cubicle Ninjas CEO Josh Farkas said. “We’re thinking of social isolation as a good thing.”

Cubicle Ninjas spent the past seven years making apps and websites for other companies, but it is putting its own name on two upcoming VR apps: Guided Meditation, which is self-explanatory, and Ramble Venice, a virtual tourism app. Farkas told Re/code the company hopes to reach people who can’t go places like Italy — such as the sick or elderly — or people who won’t — such as Americans.

“Americans are the absolute worst at taking time off for themselves,” he said. “We want them to get home from work, put on a [virtual reality] headset, and just relax for five to 15 minutes.”

Cubicle Ninjas is preparing versions of its apps for the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR. But it’s not alone in wanting to use VR as a psychological balm; already available for the Gear VR is Perfect Beach, a $3 app that simulates … being on vacation, on a beach. Users can set the location, time of day and music.

Farkas said Cubicle Ninjas also plans to charge for its Guided Meditation app, though he’s still not sure if it’ll be a one-time purchase or a subscription to “relaxation as a service.”

“For me to go and have a breather, I can buy a Starbucks and take a break,” Farkas said. “I don’t have a problem spending $5 there. Relaxation is a high-value item for me.”

As the name implies, Ramble Venice is a guided tour of that city, but Cubicle Ninjas hopes to sell tours of other cities, starting with Paris and Athens, for “a few dollars” apiece.

Even though Oculus and Gear VR are technically not for anyone under the age of 13 (who reads user agreements?!), VP of marketing Suzanne Manella said her family’s reactions to Ramble Venice have convinced her that the technology will be “the new Wii.”

“Both my young children tried it, and were almost beating each other up because they wanted to try it so bad,” Manella said. “And there was a heated conversation afterwards. Even though we ‘went there’ separately, we wanted to talk about it.”

Oculus says it wants kids to be able to safely use its hardware, eventually. And Farkas said his anecdotal experience shows the kids will want the same.

“My wife is a teacher in grade school, and for show-and-tell day, I’ve brought in an Oculus to show her class a taste of VR,” he said. “I’ve done this for two years. Both years, I brought in the Oculus and a live puppy. And then at the end, I asked kids to vote which they liked better.”

Every time, the puppy lost.

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