Today we examine the ReTrak Utopia 360° 4-D Dinosaur Experience—an augmented / virtual reality bundle that takes users back to pre-historic times in a new and exciting way that is truly unlike anything I have personally ever experienced before. Keep on reading if either you’re interested in dinosaurs or you’d just like to learn more about the exciting world of augmented reality.
What All is Included with this Virtual Reality Bundle?
What you get with this VR/AR set is pretty straightforward. There’s the Virtual Reality headset itself, which comes with a cleaning cloth for the lenses and an adjustable head strap that uses velcro to maintain its size. The second main component of the bundle is a set of 21 Augmented Reality cards that bring the individual dinosaurs to life when you view them through your smart device’s camera and the Dinosaur 4D+ App. Of the 21 cards, 20 of them feature specific and popular dinosaurs, while the 21st is simply an instructional card indicating your set’s serial number (you’ll need this when trying to set up the app). The Dinosaur 4D+ App is compatible with both Android and iOS based devices and is free, quick, and easy to download and install. Once it’s up and running, you have access to several fun and interactive features that are both highly impressive and educational. I was probably most impressed by the 3-dimensional dinosaurs that seem to pop up right off of the cards when viewing them through your device. Whether you have your device in the VR headset or not doesn’t even matter—you can view and interact with the 3-D dinosaurs either way.
My Experience using this Set
I have to admit, I had a good deal more fun with this set than someone my age ought to! I literally spent several hours bringing the various dinosaurs to life and studying them from pretty much every angle. At times I even orchestrated showdowns between meat eaters and their soon to be lunch (as is evidenced in the photo above). What I especially enjoyed about using the set was being able to view the dinosaurs from virtually any angle and having the opportunity to make them move around, roar or make other sounds, and even shed their skin to reveal a look at their bare skeletons (I show most of this in the embedded video review below). Other cool features include the ability to learn fun facts about the various featured dinosaurs and to see how they would scale with humans if either they existed today or we existed in their time. The image below shows one example of this set’s educational value, with a useful writeup about the Rhamphorhynchus. Try saying that 4 times fast!
In playing with this set myself, I mostly used it without wearing the VR headset. This was mostly due to the VR headset being just a little bit small for my grown-up sized face. It especially pinched a bit around my nose. It wasn’t super uncomfortable or anything, but it did become less and less fun to wear the longer I had it on. Besides, it was super easy to enjoy the AR cards with just my phone alone. There was no need to put the phone in the headset to be able to see the dinosaurs in 3 dimensions. One thing to note, however, is that your device’s screen size should ideally be within a size range of about 3.5 to 5.7 inches to fit into and work properly with the VR headset. If you have something bigger, like a tablet, you can still use the app and the Augmented Reality cards, so no need to worry. Besides, the AR cards are probably the best part of the bundle anyway!
Still, placing the phone in the headset does give you some additional ways to enjoy the set. The image above gives you some idea of how the 3-D viewing through the VR headset works. It’s pretty much the same trick that’s used for filming 3-D movies, where 2 different cameras film the same scene from slightly different angles. When the 2 films are projected together on the same screen, you get a slightly blurry shot that doesn’t look quite right until you put on your 3-D glasses. In this case the app does the work of the 3-D glasses by giving you 2 different images on the screen (one for each eye). The end result is that the dinosaur seems to pop right out of the screen at you. It’s also cool in that you are fully immersed in the scene, so if you turn your head to look the other way, you actually see what’s off to the sides or behind you rather than still looking directly at the dinosaur in front.
This was my first ever experience with virtual reality, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I’m not saying that there couldn’t be improvements, but for a basic set, it was actually quite impressive. I did kind of expect the dinosaurs within the Virtual Reality headset to move around a lot more, but they were really pretty docile. I suppose the goal here is not to scare kids half to death by having the T-Rex roar directly in their faces! Honestly though, it would have been fun if the dinosaurs would chase the users… just a bit. In any case, I can’t wait to see what the future of Virtual and Augmented Reality holds!
Examining the Video Evidence
Please take a few minutes to enjoy my fairly detailed video review of the ReTrak Utopia 360° 4-D Dinosaur Experience Augmented / Virtual Reality Bundle. In the video I show the ReTrak Utopia VR headset, all 20 of the augmented reality dinosaur cards (although I mistakenly said it was 19 cards with dinosaurs on them), and I demo several of the dinosaurs as they appear when brought to life by the magic of the Dinosaur 4D+ App:
More Fun from ReTrak
As if a cool dinosaur VR/AR set wasn’t enough, the fine folks at ReTrak have provided us with 2 additional sets that fit the general drift of this series. There is a set on modern day animals called the ReTrak Utopia 360° 4-D+ Animal Zoo Augmented Reality Bundle and a very cool looking space themed set called the ReTrak Utopia 360° 4D Space Exploration Augmented Reality Bundle. Each of these sets looks extremely cool, and the space one in particular really appeals to me personally. The only notable difference I can find in these two sets (aside, of course, from the theme of their content) is that the zoo set is intended for use by kids ages 5 and up and the space set (as with the dinosaur set) is meant for those ages 7 and up.
Final Thoughts and Recommendation
I really like this set! I honestly wish I had the chance to try the other 2 sets in this series by ReTrak, because this dinosaur bundle certainly made a good impression. If you have kids that are interested in dinosaurs, or you are interested in them yourself, I think this set is definitely a worthwhile pickup. In thinking back to my own younger days, I could only think of those old View Master toys as something comparable, and yet those are blown completely out of the water by this ReTrak 4-D bundle. It’s like taking the original View Master concept and multiplying it by about a thousand! If you’d like to take your first steps in the realm of Augmented and Virtual Reality, this bundle is a good place to begin!