Virtual reality (VR) may sound like an incomplete relic of the 90s, but modern technology is set to bring a whole new level of immersion to gaming. VR tracks head movement in three dimensions, allowing users to feel like they’re inside a game or movie. A variety of VR headsets, some futuristic, others quaint as cardboard, will hit store shelves in the next couple of years. Read about some of the most anticipated ones below.
The seed that grew into a phenomenon, Oculus Rift set the gaming world ablaze when it was first announced. The Kickstarter-funded VR headset connects to a computer via DVI and USB peripherals and tracks head movement to output three-dimensional images to its display. Facebook was quick to snatch up the device for $2 billion. Recent updates to Oculus Rift, codenamed ‘Crescent Bay’, introduces a literally revolutionary 360-degree perspective, stunning 1080i graphics, and refined movement tracking to catch even the most subtle head twitches. The current price for Oculus Rift sits at $350.
While most VR headsets go for the all-out, bulky futuristic look, the Avegant Glyph offers a more modest profile. The sleek, lightweight headset shuns the use of large touch screens to display images, instead leveraging micro mirrors to reflect images straight into a user’s retina. The Glyph wears like a snug pair of headphones to start. Upon unsheathing the screen, users can enjoy crisp 720p graphics in each eye, with a modest 45-degree field of vision. Avegant has stated that the limited scope helps mitigate visual fatigue and motion sickness. Set for release in autumn 2015, the Avegant Glyph sports a hefty price tag for its humble size at $499.
Samsung Gear VR
Design-wise, the Samsung Gear VR looks like a polished 90s device. The headset blends form and function to offer a balanced, user-friendly experience with traditional overtones. Powered by the lauded Oculus Rift, the Gear VR has a lens slot and Micro USB dock where users simply insert their Samung Galaxy phone and immerse themselves in the Super AMOLED screen. The Gear VR already sports an attractive selection of games and a diverse library of VR videos on its Milk VR storefront.
Carl Zeiss VR One
The Carl Zeiss headset takes its inspiration from Samsung’s Gear VR, but takes its approach a step further. Users can attach any 4.7 to 5.2-inch Android or iOS smartphone to enter the Zeiss VR One’s 3D world. The device includes a media player that lets users browse images and watch online videos and an augmented reality (AR) app to up the VR ante. At $99, the VR One offers incredible value, and with lens maestro Carl Zeiss at the optical helm, this headset is sure to exceed expectations.
With a release date of somewhere in the abyss of 2016, the Microsoft HoloLens is a half-and-half blend of VR and AR. The headset adds holographic VR images to real world elements. Users can project a video game world onto a kitchen counter, or explore futuristic worlds while playing with the dog in the backyard. The battery-powered headset runs on Windows 10, offers a 120-degree dual-axis field of view, and understands an array of voice commands and gestures.
Following talk of Google Glass, all eyes have been on the innovation giant. Google’s answer: a strappable cardboard box with a smartphone slot. No, it’s not a joke; in fact, its the most affordable ($25) and perhaps the most savvy option to hit the market. With other options such as the Archos VR and Durovis Dive offer similar (non-cardboard) designs, fans are waiting to see the true potential of Google Cardboard.
A Mobile World Congress, smartphone maker HTC got into the virtual reality game with the Vive, coming later in 2015. HTC has partnered with game-making engine Steam to build apps and games for the Vive, making it on of the more intriguing VR platforms to be announced to date.