There is no mistaking it: 2016 is the year of Virtual Reality (VR).
You have seen them on display at one of the many exhibitions by CariGamers or perhaps a mobile store in the mall. The reaction from anyone trying the curious looking headsets have can be largely summed up in one word: amazing.
When consumers try Virtual Reality they are transferred into a new world- right there, in that moment they experience the sensation of being somewhere else completely. A term the industry calls immersion, whether the deep ocean with poignant whales swimming above or into a zombie apocalypse, VR transports you to the center of the action like never before. This technology is a game changer and gives creators an entire new canvas to express and share their wildest dreams.
Many established names have entered the market, offering a range of devices and options. HTC, Samsung, Facebook, Valve, Google, Sony, Intel and more have thrown their hat in the ring at differing costs and differing qualities. At the lowest end, Google has the modest Cardboard.
As the name suggests, this is a headset constructed out of cardboard and variants can be purchased online for less than twenty dollars. This offers an introduction into the world of VR with very low fidelity and serves more as a proof of concept than a real product. It is powered by your mobile phone and is compatible with a wide range of devices, including the iPhone. The Cardboard headset has the unique distinction of being one you can create yourself, being opensource in design, the blueprints are freely available online.
Next on the ladder is the Samsung Gear VR.
Powered by Oculus technology, this headset is compatible with high end Samsung Galaxy devices (like the S6, S7 and Note 5) and fuses mobile and VR technology. Like the Google Cardboard, your phone powers the unit but the end result is a polished product -thanks to the smoothly integrated VR mode which is automatically launched once the phone is docked in the headset. A dedicated VR app store also accessible from within that mode further rounds out the cohesive user experience. This is a brilliant move that makes the Gear VR more valuable than the sum of its parts with the caveat of being limited to the Samsung eco system.
**Note, Google is upping the ante later this year with Daydream, which will be a more robust and mature approach similar to Samsung’s offering.
Beyond phone powered VR you enter the realm of the Vive (HTC/Valve) and Oculus Rift. Presently, the Vive is the superior of these two high end devices as it supports room scale, high quality VR which not only allows your mind to be transported to a virtual world but also your entire body.
Walking around and interacting with cyberspace similar to the Matrix or Star Trek’s holodeck. Wielding swords, guns even lightsabers or if you prefer a more peaceful approach, a nifty 3D paint brush. This is achieved with sensors which can be mounted on walls to track your movements in real time. These two headsets are the premiere models available to the home market and are typically powered by desktop PCs. CariGamers suggests the following optimized Virtual Reality Ready computer to get the best experience: Nvidia GTX 1070, 16GB RAM, Intel i7 and an SSD drive.
The console masses have not been forgotten. Sony is preparing to unleash their Playstation VR as well as an upgraded version of their popular gaming console, appropriately code named the PS4 Neo in October 2016. Expect a follow up report comparing this device with the Vive and Rift in the coming months.