Who would have ever thought that we would be able to buy our very own Virtual Reality Head Set?
20 years ago, this technology was at its early stages, creating scenes that appeared block-like, and unrealistic by nature.
Now you can submerge yourself into a whole other galaxy, travel back in time, and experience a 360° picture into a completely different surrounding. Sounds pretty amazing doesn’t it?
Many different company’s have come out with their own unique VR Headsets, such as Samsung’s Gear VR powered by Oculus, and the standalone headset which is synonymous with Virtual Reality: The Oculus Rift.
There are two forms of VR headsets to choose from: mobile or tethered
Tethered headsets are connected to devices such as your PC, or gaming console. Unfortunately, the cable makes them less versatile. However, unlike the mobile headsets, the image you view through your headset is processed through head set as well as the PC or gaming console, which ultimately gives you a more complex VR experience.
The headsets also include built-in motion sensors, and external camera trackers, improving the image quality and head tracking.
There are two downsides to the tethered headsets. The clunky cables, and the price. Not only do you have to purchase the headset, but you will also need the gaming console or PC to utilize the headset in most cases.
The PS VR is the least expensive option, trending around $400, while the Oculus Rift is roughly $500. Both of these headsets require additional accessories which cost about another $100 on top of that. For example, the Oculus Touch controllers an additional $100.
Mobile VR headsets are used with your smartphone devices. These headsets allow you to place your mobile device into the front of the VR headset to immerse you in the virtual reality experience.
The lenses separate your phone screen into two separate images for your eyes, turning your smartphone into a mobile virtual reality device.
These headsets are reliant on a compatible mobile smartphone device to be of any use.
Mobile headsets are far less expensive than their tethered counterparts. The Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View start at $100 or less, and because all the processing is done on your phone, you are free to move about wherever you go.
Just don’t go walking around with them on, bumping into walls, or crossing busy roads.
The downside? Phones aren’t designed specifically for VR, so they don’t offer the same quality of picture, even with the special lenses, and are under-powered when you compare them to the tethered headsets for PC or gaming consoles. Hence the lower price.
Currently, the company which makes the processing chips for most smartphones, Qualcomm, has
teamed up with Google to create some amazing Standalone prototype VR headsets. These new headsets allow you to walk around a virtual space without needing to be plugged into anything or having sensors installed around your room.
Google also recently announced Standalone Daydream Headsets from HTC and Lenovo that don’t require a smartphone and use built-in position tracking for a more augmented reality experience.
Let’s delve in to some of the best virtual reality headsets out there on the market today.
HTC Vive / Steam VR
HTC’s Vive is a package deal. It comes with the headset, two motion controllers, and two base stations for defining an entire room for a VR area. It is the only VR system that tracks your movements up to 10′ cube instead of from your seat. This keeps you in your “play area” and ensures you do not bump into anything within the set boundaries you set. The HTC Vive’s handset controllers are more advanced than the PlayStation Move, but inadvertently much more expensive, at $800. The Vive has a 110° field view, with 360° motion tracking. The only part of this headset that requires chords, is the power port to charge it.
The Oculus Rift is the centerfold of VR headsets. While it lacks the movement tracking capabilities within a confined area, it is just as powerful as the Vive. This VR headset has become the giant in virtual reality technology. With a powerful graphic cards, and sensitive touch controllers, you are immersed into a completely different world. The Oculus community is ever-growing, and one of the largest VR communities out there. This headset is specifically designed for the use with high-powered PC’s or laptops.
Google Daydream View
Google’s Daydream is quite similar to Google Cardboard. As with all mobile headsets, you still put your smartphone in the headset, and it functions as your virtual reality display, separating your screen into two images. A special hand-held remote, similar to the Oculus Remote, controls all your movements. A pairable remote you hold in your hand (similar to the Oculus Remote) controls the action. This VR headset is built for simplicity and comfortability. It’s abilities are fairly impressive when you find apps that work with it, but the library software is still limited in comparison to other VR systems. The only downside is that it isn’t compatible with Google Cardboard apps, though Google is currently working on an update to fix this issue.
Samsung Gear VR
Samsung’s Gear VR is one of the most well-known mobile VR systems, and easily accessible.
Samsung has given away a pair of their newest VR headsets with a pre-order of the past few flagship Galaxy phones. Unfortunately, this headset only works specifically for Samsung devices, and more specifically, eight devices, running from the Samsung Galaxy S6 to the S8.
This narrows down the list of potential users to the people who already have compatible Samsung phones. The nice thing about these headsets is that Samsung usually bundles these with the newest flagship phones, as mentioned above.
While the current version of the Gear VR is a bit more expensive than the last, running at $130, it comes
with a new Bluetooth controller equipped with both a touch pad, as well as motion sensing, in addition
to the built-in headset touch pad.
Samsung has collaborated with Oculus to build the software, ecosystem, which features a handful of apps and games, and multiple ways to view 360° video.
Future VR Developments
While Apple has lagged behind both PC, and Android users, in the virtual reality department, that doesn’t mean we won’t see anything in the future.
This may lead in to Apple’s big break into the virtual reality world, although no announcements have been confirmed as of yet about their very own VR headset.
My guess is that if Apple did produce their own headset, it would be very similar to the Vive in concept and abilities.
As for the future of the VR world, it remains uncertain.
Google Cardboard emerged to Google Daydream, while Samsung continues to advance their Gear VR with Oculus capabilities, neither have made the world of virtual reality explode.
There hasn’t been any talk about advancement in technology as far as HTC or Rift headsets go, and the PS VR looks as though it will not advance until a new PS system comes out.
Varjo, a company from Finland, is currently working on a new VR headset that claims a display of 70 times the resolution of the Vive, but won’t be available any time soon. Keep an eye out, and share your thoughts about the new virtual craze.