Virtual Reality has been the talk of the 21st century. While the internet took over the world by storm during the past decade or so, Virtual Reality has been the new talk of the town for quite some time now. If you might be undermining the craze for Virtual Reality in the market right now, it’s time to think again! McDonald’s have been testing out Happy Meal Boxes that double up as a VR headsets in Sweden over the past couple of weeks. Coca-Cola has also been working on a recyclable cardboard package that turns into VR headsets. You might be wondering, “Seriously? What’s up with all these companies flocking towards Virtual Reality all of a sudden?“. We haven’t had enough of our smartphones and now suddenly we are talking about devices that latch onto our faces, well, Hello Technology! But why does this thing even matter?
What exactly is Virtual Reality and Why does it matter?
‘Virtual Reality’ was coined in 1982 in a Sci-Fi novel and has since gone on to replace the ‘Artificial Reality’ by which it went by prior. Virtual Reality is all about artificially replicating some of the human senses like Visuals, Touch, Hearing and Smell. While all of the Virtual Reality headsets do not possess these features, rapid progress has been made over the past couple years. Special stereoscopic displays are the trademark signs of Virtual Reality and other devices such as a keyboard or a wired glove could also be attached as additional inputs to these Virtual Reality devices. Virtual Reality is primarily known for its ability in simulating the 360-degree experience of any environment and the 360-degree videos recently gaining popularity on Facebook are a great example of the experience.
Okay, you might be now convinced by now about what exactly a Virtual Reality Device is and what it does. But, still, why does it even matter to the mass consumers or the companies? One of the major reasons that make Virtual Reality popular among consumers is partly due to an elevated craze for it. Think of the Internet boom. Although it is not something that might sound as an essential to the mass consumers, a few industries particularly will make huge benefits through investment in Virtual Reality.
Gaming, Healthcare, Education, Design and Fine arts are some of the key industries where Virtual Reality will be finding a lot of applications in. Although still at a speculative level, Virtual Reality is expected to rake in over $150 Billion a year in revenues by 2020. Providing the customers with a personalized and detailed experience has never been easy with a VR headset. Consumers themselves are looking for more immersive experiences over the bland LCD displays which haunted us for over the past couple of years.
Still in its infancy, here’s what Mark Zuckerberg after bringing Oculus Rift for $2 Billion thinks about when Virtual Reality will reach the mass markets:
“I honestly don’t know how long it will take. It could be five years, it could be 10 years, it could be 15 or 20. My guess is that it will be at least 10.”
It’s still early to comment on the actual implications that Virtual Reality could possibly have on the tech industry, but till then, if you are looking forward to getting yourself an immersive experience in VR, below are a few possible solutions you could head for.
8 Best Virtual Reality Device Solutions
Oculus Rift VR
The place where it all began! Oculus Rift is primarily responsible for bringing on this wave of Virtual Reality and its promises to the mass market. Started initially as a Kickstarter project by Palmer Luckey, and later being sold to Facebook for a whopping $2 Billion, Oculus Rift has had quite the Virtual Reality ride! This consumer market targeted Virtual Reality Headset comes with a hefty price tag but features qualities that easily overhauls any other Virtual Reality headset in competition.
A resolution of 1080×1200 per eye, a 90 Hz refresh rate, a wide field of view, integrated headphones for a 3D audio effect, and the rotational and positional tracking system are some of the key features that the Oculus Rift possesses. These qualities of the VR headset itself allow the company to provide an immersive virtual reality experience to their customers.
The device on pre-order, ships with two games, but the device is particularly hardware-intensive. Some of its recommended system specifications include NVidia GTX 970M/AMD R9 220 or equivalent and over 8GB of RAM. It does make sense that to process the amazing features encompassing this Virtual Reality device, it does require some equally powerful computing power. All-in-all, easily one of the earliest and best consumer market targeted Virtual Reality headset and comes with an early shipping date of July 2016 if you are willing to take a hit on your wallet!
- Price: $599 (Includes: headset, sensor, remote, cables, Xbox One controller, EVE: Valkyrie, and Lucky’s Tale)
- Platforms: Microsoft Windows (Linux and Mac OS X planned)
- Visit Website
What if someone is not willing to shell out over $500 on something that is still in its infancy and just wants a piece of the Virtual reality action? Well, Google Cardboard is easily one of the best cheapest ways to experience some Virtual Reality. You definitely can’t expect an intensive immersive experience as with the Oculus Rift or any other VR headset for that matter. But hey, we get what you pay for, don’t we? But the best thing about Google Cardboard is that it certainly does a good, justifiable job in providing a virtual reality experience at its meager price tag.
Just pop your smartphone into a cardboard cutout and you are good to go to experience virtual reality on the cheap! As smartphones these days are pretty well-equipped with gyroscopes and the displays required for a Virtual Reality headset, Google Cardboard handles VR pretty well. Different variants of the Google Cardboard are available on the Google store, where you can shell out a few more bucks and get something that is more durable. The best thing about Google Cardboard also comes as a DIY project where you can download the instructions and make your own VR headset or chose to go with the kit readily available from the Google Store. A decently high-resolution smartphone should just about get the job done with the Google Cardboard VR headset.
- Price: $14.99 to $29.99
- Platforms: Almost all Smartphones are supported
- Visit Website | Buy from Amazon
Agnus VR is India’s very own solution to experiencing Virtual Reality on a cheap budget, but without compromising on the experience as a whole. With a piece costing just under $40, Agnus VR might be a better solution for your VR needs as compared to any other VR headset on the lower end of the price spectrum. Simply pop in your Smartphone into the Agnus VR headset, strap on the headset and you are ready to experience Virtual Reality on a budget! 3D movies, 3D gaming and positional tracking allow Agnus VR to provide a considerably decent Virtual Reality experience as compared to headsets in its price range.
Beautifully designed, providing comfort to the eyes while not bulging on the budget front is what makes Agnus VR one of the most viable Virtual Reality headsets in the market right now. Soft faux-leather padding, ability to adjust focus, port for the headphone jack and high-quality optical lenses make the experience with Agnus VR definitely one to look out for. Again, being in a range of its own, Agnus VR could be a viable alternative to Google Cardboard.
Price: ₹2,599 for Pre-Orders
Platforms: Most of the 4-6″ Smartphones are supported
Samsung Gear VR
Partnering with Oculus, Samsung has unveiled their own Virtual Reality headsets, named Gear VR. The technology that goes into the Gear VR is primarily supported by Oculus but is targeted for Samsung’s Galaxy range of Smartphones. The Gear VR is basically a way to pop in your Samsung Smartphone into it, strap on the headset and experience Virtual Reality. The headset is on the lighter side as compared to some of the other VR headsets in its price range. 96-degrees of Field of view, support for proximity sensors and an ever-expanding behemoth of content, Samsung’s Gear VR is one of the best possible solutions to VR, provided you own a Samsung Galaxy device.
As compared to the VR headsets which basically require only a smartphone, Gear VR is on the pricey side, while also not being compatible with devices other than their proprietary range of smartphones. If you do own a Samsung Galaxy device, Gear VR will probably offer you the best Virtual Reality experience, since it has been developed for their proprietary smartphone models. Expect a fine-tuned Virtual Reality experience on your Galaxy smartphone with Gear VR.
- Price: $99.99 (Free with Samsung S7 and S7 Edge pre-orders)
- Platforms: Samsung Galaxy devices (Galaxy Note5, S6 edge+, S6, and S6 edge)
- Visit Website || Buy from Amazon
HTC has upped the game with their latest announcement of the HTC Vive VR headset. There’s a new competition to Oculus Rift in the market and if the price tag is kept aside, HTC Vive would easily be announced as the best VR headset available in the mass-market right now! Available for Pre-orders now in some of the markets, HTC Vive VR has a shipping date of May 2016. Taxes and shipping take the HTC Vive VR headset to cost over the north of $800, easily making it one of the most costly consumer market targeted Virtual Reality headset.
HTC Vive too, requires a powerful computer running Windows OS and the requirements are similar to that of what Oculus Rift requires. Powered by SteamVR, HTC Vive VR headset features 32-sensors-powered 360-degree motion tracking, 110-degrees field of view and provides an amazing room-scale Virtual Reality experience. HTC Vive VR’s 2160 x 1200 combined resolution and 90 Hz refresh rates make it one of the most technologically powerful Virtual Reality headset available for the consumer market. It does come with one huge drawback and it has to be its price tag. Priced heftily, this is definitely not your ordinary Virtual Reality cheap thrills!
Price: $799 (Excluding Taxes)
Platforms: Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 or latest
Razer’s OSVR or Open Source Virtual Reality is an ambitious project, completely different as compared to the many VR headsets readily available in the market covered above. Razer’s OSVR is basically the hardware part of the open source virtual reality initiative. While Oculus and many other Virtual Reality companies provide their own SDK for development, they are primarily limited to their own proprietary devices. For developers looking forward to developing for the virtual reality community, Open source virtual reality is something that you must definitely look into. While OSVR initiative allows developers to develop VR applications, independent of the hardware, it does come bundled up as a Razer VR headset.
Razer has provided support for OSVR’s hardware requirements. Nvidia, Intel and Ubisoft are some of the big players who have already signed up along with Razer for the OSVR initiative and this could mean some heavy games hitting the Virtual Reality world anytime soon. Razer’s hacker dev kit for the OSVR packs a 5.5-inch 1920×1080 Full HD OLED screen, a gyroscope, and a compass and an integrated accelerometer.
- Price: $199.99 (Hacker Development Kit v1.1), $299.99 (Hacker Development Kit v1.2 and later)
- Platforms: Microsoft Windows
- Visit Website
Sony PlayStation VR
Previously known as Sony Morpheus, Sony’s new VR headset for their PlayStation 4 platform is now named PlayStation VR. If you do own a PlayStation 4 and looking for some immersive gaming and movie experience, the PlayStation VR is easily the best headset available for the platform. A 5.7-inch OLED display, a whopping 120Hz refresh rate, positional tracking, and its beautiful ergonomic design make it perfectly built for the gamer in you.
Since the device is backed up by PlayStation 4 gaming consoles power, high-resolution graphics with low latency is something that PlayStation VR could supposedly handle with flair. Although the pricing or the release date is not confirmed yet, this device comes with an additional box for video processing and do expect PlayStation VR to be priced anywhere along with the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive VR. The best about PlayStation VR is that unlike Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, you need not be unsure if your system is capable of handling it, all it requires is a PlayStation 4 gaming console.
- Price: TBC
- Platforms: Playstation 4
- Visit Website
Probably one of the heftiest Virtual Reality headset among the devices available for the consumer market. Microsoft Hololens is probably quite different from plain VR and is an amalgamation of Augmented and Virtual Reality. The Microsoft Hololens is an untethered holographic projection device and does not require any other third-party software, hardware or platform to operate from. The Hololens is a standalone device that could project holographic projections into thin air!
120-degree field of vision and high-definition visuals aim at providing the best holographic computing experience. While particularly aimed at professionals and commercial users, the Hololens comes built-in with Windows 10 software and runs on a battery. While this is definitely not one of the cheap thrills experience in Virtual Reality, Microsoft Hololens does appeal to a few industries like Media & animation, architecture, mechanical, healthcare, automation and research. Backed by Microsoft, Unity, and Dassault systems, Hololens is targeted more towards commercial applications rather than the mass markets.
- Price: $3,000
- Platforms: Untethered Standalone Device
- Visit Website
So, as we come to the closure of the list of some of the most popular Virtual Reality headset devices, which ones do you think will likely have the most impact in the long run? Feel free to shout out your thoughts and comments on the VR headsets below.