This year we've seen the rise of virtual reality brought to us by the four biggest players in the current mainstream. Offerings like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and Samsung Gear VR have provided the boost the idea of virtual reality has been waiting for.
First developed in the 90's, virtual reality didn't take hold because the experience left too much to be desired. The game has now changed as the technology exists to allow developers to create mind-blowing experiences for users through virtual reality gaming or viewing.
Virtual reality is revolutionizing the face of gaming and entertainment with it's immersive technology. As the virtual reality sector heats up, more and more headsets or viewing devices will become available to the consumer market. Even now choosing a VR device can be a confusing task, but don't worry, we're here to help. We've put together our list of the Top 5 VR headsets that you should be looking at to get into the virtual reality revolution.
Produced in collaboration with Valve; creators of many award winning games and the legendary PC gaming platform known as Steam. The HTC Vice headset is the most technically advanced unit, offering blazing graphics and a fully immersive experience thanks to it's Lighthouse room tracking feature. Lighthouse uses 70 sensors that users place around the room in order to gain the smoothest gameplay with low latency and seamless head tracking. No other headset currently offers this level of advancement or the ability for users to move around a virtual space in reality. The effect this has on the gaming experience is second to none.
The drawback with the HTC Vive headset is the prohibitive price. The headset itself retails for around $800 USD but requires a powerful computer to operate properly. This unfortunately drives the price into the thousands but the experience you get when you put the headset on is worth every penny.
The Oculus Rift VR headset is the one that started the VR movement. Initially funded through a kickstarter campaign, the Oculus Rift uses your computer to create stunning 3D virtual reality experience with head tracking capabilities. Boasting an incredible 2160 X 1200 resolution, 233 million pixels/second and a 90 Hz refresh rate. As PC computers continue to get faster, these numbers will continue to increase.
The Rift headset and controllers could be the most comfortable of the bunch and can be had for $798 USD on the Oculus Rift website. Currently, we view the Rift as an advanced middles of the road option because you get high performance but don't need a rocket ship of a PC to get going. With the recent addition of handheld controllers, the Rift is keeping pace with the Vive and PS4VR offerings.
The Sony PlayStation VR headset looks to be the mainstream choice for VR gaming. Priced at an affordable $400 USD and relying only on an existing PlayStation 4, the PS VR is not the most powerful or the most feature laden, but it is the easiest and most convenient way to get into a "real" VR experience. We are calling it the benchmark for VR gaming devices because it is the most playable. All you need is a PS4 to plug into and away you go.
Admittedly, the technology is not as advanced as the Rift or the Vive but the price, functionality and availability of virtual reality games makes it a serious contender. Being backed by the Sony gaming empire is not a bad thing either. There is nothing else on the market that ticks all the boxes like the PlayStation VR.
The Samsung Gear VR is developed to be used in conjunction with your smartphone. The VR experience's quality depends on which smartphone you are using and can differ slightly from brand to brand. However, the Gear VR is the most advanced mobile viewer that allows users to enter virtual reality with only their smartphones. The second iteration of the Gear VR sees improvements in comfort, graphics and elimination of the dread lens fog.
The unit retails for an affordable $99 USD and offers a great viewing experience in it's own right. The only draw back is that you are limited to using Samsung Smartphones. If you're looking for an affordable introduction to virtual reality, look no further.
There are a number of cheap cardboard or plastic viewers that offer consumers a chance to glimpse what VR is all about. These units are nothing more than a case that holds your smartphone in front of your eyes and two viewing lenses that blend the pictures into a 3D rendering. While they offer a fun glimpse into the VR world, they are by no means capable of delivering the detail, smoothness and overall experience that more powerful, dedicated units offer.
The Fove VR headset is not available to the market yet but has been redesigned again to offer a smaller profile and updated eye-tracking before if goes out to developers. The advantage that the Fove VR unit boasts is advanced interactive eye tracking that uses an infrared sensor to monitor eye movement inside the headset.
The most developer friendly unit is the Razer OSVR HDK 2 that allows developers to create content for VR without any hardware or software limitations. This is done by allowing the headset to remain open source so developers can go to town with their designs. The display consists of dual OLED screens delivering 2160 X 1200 immersion. This pits the headset against the big players and allows it to hold it's own.
The Microsoft HoloLens is not a copy of the big players devices but takes a new spin on VR. The HoloLens augments reality, allowing for holograms or overlays to be positioned in reality. As this unit is not really built for gaming in the same way as the Sony, Oculus or HTC units, it is still a really cool use of the technology and has the ability to revolutionize the way we live.
What we have come up with is essentially a two part verdict. Depending on your budget there are two options that we feel will give you the most complete and fun VR experience.
If money is no object you can't get better than the HTC Vive. With ridiculous processing power, full movement immersion and a good game catalog (backed by Valve and Steam), the Vive is the best of the best. This unit delivers the best visuals and the most natural movement which means that if you have the dough to blow, this is the one for you.
If like most of us, you don't have the cash to drop on such a large investment, we recommend picking up the Sony PlayStation VR. This unit is just straight up fun! The head tracking and movement sensors do a good enough job to keep latency (motion sickness) at bay while delivering crisp graphics and ridiculously fun gameplay. The price is right, the gear is well made and the backing coming from one of the largest companies in the gaming industry means the PlayStation VR is set to become the industry standard.
No matter which unit you choose, the world of virtual reality is something new and different. The experience is mind blowing and eye opening to the possibilities that exist with this technology.