Virtual reality is no longer just an idea that existed in science fiction movies like Lawnmower Man. It is here and it is now and there are a lot of products available (or about to be available) on the market. As a newcomer, it can be confusing and overwhelming! We're here to help.
First thing to know: just because it's virtual, doesn't mean is has to be expensive! There is a large range of products, with different limitations and features.
Next to note: the industry is moving and moving fast! We will do our best to update this blog so we can keep you in the know.
Google Cardboard is by the far the least expensive option on the market. For $10, you get this pre-constructed piece of cardboard that takes less than 10 minutes to assemble. Once assembled, you stick your smart phone into the slot, plug your headphones in and you are transported to an immersive virtual world! Your smart phone uses the gyroscopic sensors and positioning systems to accurately track your head movements. At the moment, content is on the scarce side, as you have to download specific apps to gain access to content.
Limits: You must have a smart phone in order for this to work. A lot of apps (Jaunt, VRSE) aren't compatible with iPhone 5 or older.
Price: $10 - $20
SAMSUNG GEAR VR
Samsung's Gear VR has teamed up with Oculus and Milk VR to provide a consumer friendly headset with some cool features. This device uses Samsung Galaxy smartphone as its processor/display, which plugs into a Micro USB dock. Milk VR provides all the content including films, games and other VR experiences. However, it's more on the expensive side, selling for $199 at the moment. Features include touch pad, back button and volume key.
Limits: This headset is only compatible with Galaxy Note 4. Content is limited to what Milk VR/Oculus provide.
This headset was created in conjunction with Valve - the makers of popular games Half-Life and Portal, which means this headset is well-suited for emerging virtual reality games. The display screen is 1,200 by 1,080 pixels giving great display. The concern with most virtual reality goggles is refresh rate, especially when playing games. There's nothing worse than fighting a bad guy and losing due to delay. Vive's refresh rate is 90 frames per second, which they claim is the best on the market. It works in conjunction with Steam VR base stations which uses a laser positioning sensor to track the motions of your head. Overall, HTC seems like a gamers dream come true; it even comes with its own game controllers.
Limits: For full mobility, you have to make an additional purchase of the Steam VR. But overall, this seems like the leader of the industry for gamers.
Price: All sources say it will be more expensive than the Oculus Rift, which is estimated to cost between $200-$400. Release date for the HTC Vive is November 2015.
SONY'S PROJECT MORPHEUS
Sony's Project Morpheus is a visor-style headset that syncs with Playstation. Project Morpheus is aimed predominantly at gaming, but has a lot of features that make it extremely exciting, including 1080 resolution OLED display (stands for 'organic light-emitting diode,' which is a grade higher than LED). The head set enables low persistence which removes motion blur. The OLED allows for a high refresh rate, essential for first person gaming. Project Morpheus is one of the only headsets focusing on 360° to enhance user experience.
Limits: Initial prototype required headphones. Only compatible with PS4. A little more on the expensive side: projected to be for sale between $300-$400. Not available until Quarter 1, 2016.
Price: $300 - $400
Oculus Rift is definitely one of the leaders of the virtual reality movement. Recently purchased by Facebook, Oculus is working hard to release the best head set on the market. Supported by Oculus Story Studio, the company is already releasing some really cool content in the digital 360° film arena. The best part apart Rift, is that it supports all sorts of content: films, 360° tours, games, etc. With The Rift, we see similar features as Project Morpheus: high refresh rate and low-persistence display. For gaming, they've developed their own controllers called Oculus Touch, which frees up your hands and allows for more motion than traditional controllers. It also has integrated headphones, enabling spatial audio.
Limits: Only works with PC Windows and requires a large amount of processing space to run. A little more on the expensive side: projected to be for sale between $200-$400. Not available until Quarter 1, 2016.
Price: $200 - $400