Idea Blog

Virtual Reality: The Who, What, Where and When…

Claude Harrington 03.29.2016

In yesterday’s post, we celebrated the historic launch of Oculus’ Rift and discussed some of the top applications of virtual reality. Today, as promised, were going to take a broader look at the landscape; exploring who, what, where and when to expect in the near future.

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Although Oculus’ Rift is the first commercially-produced virtual reality headset, it’s not Oculus’ first consumer headset on the market. If this sounds confusing, that’s because it kind of is. But that confusion can be cleared up pretty quickly by understanding that consumer-ready virtual reality comes in two forms:

Head-Mounted Display (HMD): This refers to a headset (like the Rift) that connects to a high-processing computer and provides the user with a fully immersive experience.

Mobile VR: This refers to a headset that leverages the computing-power and screen display of a smart phone (like an iPhone or Galaxy) to provide users with a less-immersive, but still presence-delivering experience.

Or, to oversimplify this a bit, you can think of HMD’s (like the Oculus Rift) as powerful desktop computers and Mobile VR headsets (powered by a smart phone) as a portable, less powerful laptop. And like the difference between a pricy iMac and a more affordable MacBook, the HMD units cost more than their mobile counterparts. For example, the Oculus Rift sells for $599 whereas an Oculus-powered mobile headset (called Gear VR) retails for $99.

Since the mobile VR options are more affordable and, for non-gamers, can provide an almost as immersive experience, we’ll focus on those first. Let’s take a closer look at 5 mobile VR headsets and then 5 higher-end HMD devices:

MOBILE VR

(organized by price)

cardboard

Google Cardboard: The cheapest way to experience virtual reality though, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. That said, it’s a good gateway in; one that’s been embraced by The New York Times who, in November 2015, mailed Google Cardboard units to their 1.2 million at-home subscribers so that they could experience the paper’s budding collection of VR videos.

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View-Master VR: Launched by Mattel, this is supposed to capture the glory of the once-famous View-Master toy (popularized in the 1960’s) but add a modern twist.

homido

Homido VR: Though more convenient than the low-end options (like Google Cardboard), Homido VR doesn’t deliver the same quality and features as the mobile options that cost just a little bit more.

merge

Merge VR: The Merge VR Goggles are made of flexible (purple!) foam and work with most iOS and Android smartphones from the last two years, including the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Which is a big differentiator from its chief competitor: Gear VR.

gear

Samsung Gear VR: Of the already-available mobile VR devices, Samsung’s Gear VR (powered by Oculus) has become the gold standard. But as alluded to above, it doesn’t work with all phones, and it has some wrinkles that can (mostly) be circumvented. Produced by Samsung, it only integrates with the company’s latest phones (Galaxy Note 5 , Galaxy S6/S6 Edge, and later, Galaxy S7/S7 Edge).

 

HIGHER-END HMD

(organized by release date)

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Oculus Rift: With great press, priority support from Mark Zuckerberg and strong buy-in from the world’s top developers, the Oculus Rift kicks off the VR revolution as the market leader.

HTC Vive

HTC Vive: The HTC Vive differs from the Rift in that it offers something called “Room Scale” VR, meaning that with a camera setup users can literally move throughout their room in order to navigate their VR presence. It remains to be seen how valuable this feature will be, but it’s a key differentiator and accounts for the higher cost.

PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR: Unlike the Rift and Vive, which require the use of high-end PC’s, Sony’s VR device utilize’s the company’s PlayStation 4 gaming console. So for PS4 owners, this is a cheaper option than what Oculus and HTC are offering. That’s great, but one early criticism about the yet-to-be-finalized device is the clunky Wii-like motion controllers.

StarVR

StarVR: The StarVR headset first made waves at E3 in 2015, heralded for offering a 210-degree field of vision (as opposed to the typical 100 degrees).

Sulon Q

Sulon Q: The world’s first and only all-in-one, tether-free, “wear and play” headset for VR, AR and spatial computing made waves at the Game Developers conference earlier this month.

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