Review: ‘Within’ VR gets you SNL and Mr. Robot extras + more
Within's curated list of shorts, docs and films will satisfy even the toughest VR critics.
By Jimi Stine
Pros: Lots of high-quality content, simple and intuitive design, quick and easy set up
Cons: No search function or content filter and no way of getting notified of new content.
Within is a 360 and VR video-hosting app that's home to an incredible breadth of content. When I first came across it on the App Store I was a bit cautious—the app hadn't received many reviews. But a free app is a free app and after a quick download and start-up I have zero regrets.
Within, formerly Vrse, hosts a ton of the newest and most professional VR and 360 video content available today. Everything from mini-documentaries to animated shorts is here—and all of it's good. A current standout on offer is National Geographic's "The Protectors", a short-form VR production that will soon accompany a full-length film, put together by Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow and VR creator Imraan Ismail. Alongside this traditional, breathtaking, film are shorter experimental experiences as well as those tied to on-going franchises– USA's "Mr.Robot VR" is another truly special experience that goes beyond gimmickry to provide awesome additional content for the award-winning show.
"Invasion" is a six minute short on Within that tells about two rabbits saving the world from aliens.
Within's user interface is wonderfully simple and has several useful features, but it does come up short in a few notable ways. The most obvious missing feature is a search function. There isn't a ton of content on the app just yet, but as more gets added, you're going to want to be able to find exactly what you're looking for. Even as you read this review you might be thinking, "Hey, that Nat Geo doc sounds pretty neat, I think I'll watch that," and while I'm sure Within will be featuring it for some time, good luck finding it in a few months. There's also no way of being notified about new content being posted to the app. Right now it seems like Within is mostly concerned with being a place where high-profile creators can host their projects in a public setting that's easy to direct others to, but Within itself doesn't do much to keep us coming back.
Missing features aside, Within does provide a number of tricks to make the experience simple and easy. Most importantly you can download or stream all the videos available, meaning it's easy to take them on the go whenever you happen to leave Wi-Fi, and on the flip side, if you're phone is low on space (and whose isn't?), streaming lets you watch anyway. The video-player itself is, thankfully, easy to use in VR, functioning well without cluttering the screen. Lastly, any video you watch can be shared across Facebook, Twitter, and via email with the press of a button.
National Geographic's "The Protectors" is a mini-doc featured on Within.
If you have any curiosity about what the most talented film-makers and animators are doing in the mobile VR and 360 video space, Within is a free and easy must-download. While it might be hard to find exactly what you're looking for, with the current offerings on the platform, it's impossible to go wrong. You can download the iOS app here, and Android app here.
—Jimi Stine studies Narrative Design for Interactive Media at New York University and recently reviewed VR Car Sim for GearBrain. He has never lost at any pole-vaulting centric video game.