For the uninitiated, VR (virtual reality) is an immersive experience in which your head movements are tracked in a three-dimensional world, making it ideally suited to games and even movies. AR is augmented reality is an indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.
The current modern VR headsets fit into one of two categories: Tethered or Mobile
Mobile headsets are shells with lenses into which you place your smartphone. The lenses separate the screen into two images for your eyes, turning your smartphone into a VR device. Mobile headsets like the Samsung Gear VR and the upcoming Google Daydream View are inexpensive and because all of the processing is done on your phone, you don’t need to connect any wires to the headset. However, because phones aren’t designed specifically for VR, they can’t offer the best picture even with special lenses, and they’re notably underpowered compared with PC- or game console-based VR.
Tethered headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR are physically connected to PCs. The cable makes them a bit awkward at times, but putting all of the actual video processing in a box, you don’t need to directly strap to your face means your VR experience can be a lot more complex. The use of a dedicated display in the headset instead of your smartphone, as well as the use of built-in motion sensors and an external camera tracker, drastically improves both image fidelity and head tracking. Hopefully, the wireless options will not be too far into the future as the clunkiness of being tethered might spoil some of the VR fun.
The products for the mobile community are vast and varied in this ever-expanding group. Currently the heavy hitters are: Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, Xiaomi Mi VR Play, Zeiss One, Freefly, and the Mattel ViewMaster VR.
The best in AR apps for android and ios can be found here.
The best in VR apps for android and ios can be found here.
The leaders in the VR headset community (or the tethered experience) is, without question, the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the PlayStation VR. While the PlayStation VR is for the PS4 owner there is the Oculus Rift which is primarily used for the PC. However, the Oculus Rift will also work with an Xbox One Controller which comes with the Oculus but you may have to purchase the Rift controllers separately. There are also a number of Oculus bundles available as well. The HTC Vive also compares to Oculus Rift in that you will need a very powerful PC in order to handle the experience using any of these headsets. Not to mention the sheer physical space needed to use the headsets.
Where is Microsoft’s presence in the VR community?
Because of Microsoft’s current seemless integration of Windows 10 and Xbox Live crossplay, Microsoft is taking the VR concept very seriously. So, we would have to assume the latest addition to the Xbox family, hopefully launched later this year (Project Scorpio), will certainly have a big part to play in the VR realm. Given how popular the PlayStaion VR and the Oculus Rift seems to be already and given how much horsepower the Scorpio will have under it’s hood (at least 6 teraflops of GPU power have been promised) we know for certain the console will be able to handle the Oculus Rift (or perhaps a custom headset) with very little issues. Which would bring both Microsoft and Sony consoles into the VR generation alongside the PC.
There are many differences and pros and cons with each of these units and it is all down to a personal preferences as to which one is right for you. Don’t rush right out and get the first one you “think” you may like. Do your research and compare them to one another and make decisions based on your lifestyle and preferences.
What is coming in the future for VR?
Certainly the VR community will continue to grow and improve its products and the whole experience will become more mainstream, given a relatively short period of time. Obviously, the wireless VR experience is what we are all waiting for in order to have that untethered feeling. Apparently, an wireless add-on has been introduced at this year’s CES show in Las Vegas. KwikVR Wireless Kit is set to release in March at around $300 and will work with the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
Microsoft’s Scorpio will also be an item to keep an eye on. AMD’s booth at the CES has shown that the Scorpio may be powered with AMD’s new Vega GPU and the new Ryzen CPU. AMD and Xbox Project Scorpio
These two items alone will, no doubt, be the way to go for the future of VR, so don’t jump on the bandwagon so quickly. Keep your eye on this part of technology and watch it grow! Great things are coming!
Further reading/researching on the VR topic: