The Virtual and Augmented Reality is still at its nascent stages but we already have products which can give us glimpse of their potential and can be bought off the shelves. They come in various shapes and sizes and depends on some of the devices you already own. Most of them come in form of Virtual Reality Headset which could be worn around your head and in front of your eyes. Almost all of them gives you ability to interact with virtual or hybrid world with some sort of controller or tracking. Let’s explore the various types of VR Headsets and some of the options those you can buy off the shelf.
Types of Virtual Reality Headsets
The VR Headsets come mainly in three flavours and almost all except Microsoft Hololens requires a host system, either Mobile or PC/Laptop with decent hardware, to render the 3D Virtual world.
- The Glass Types
- The Glass Type VR Headsets as the name suggests consists mainly of two lenses splitting your vision to two different part of screen and an area to hold Mobile Handset. It requires a compatible Mobile Handset to produce the vision which has to be docked in front of the lenses. You then need to run an application on your mobile device which can produce 3D effect which can be looked upon from the lens for that immersive experience.
- This is the most basic form of VR Headsets and of course the cheapest of all with an assumption that you already have a capable Mobile Phone. Some of the options available in this space are Google Cardboard, Google Daydream and various other offerings from lesser known companies.
- The Screen Types
- The Screen Type VR Headsets are the ones which doesn't need a Mobile Phone to render the vision but instead screen in-built into them. These usually comes with higher resolution, better field and depth of view and higher refresh rate. These do however need a host system like a powerful laptop or PC to have all image rendering related processing done as they don’t consist of any specific computing/processing units.
- These are the most common ones and extensively used in Gaming industry. The headsets themselves are relatively expensive as well as they need an comparatively expensive hardware for optimum experience. Some of the examples are HTC Vive Pro, Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation VR, etc.
- The Standalones
- The Standalone ones are the complete set of devices and does not require any external host in form of Mobile, Laptop, Console or PC. These consists of chipset containing Processor, Graphic Processing Unit, Memory, Lens, Sensors, etc. These gives you the best experience of the VR world but are the most expensive ones. At time of writing, the optios available in market are Microsoft Hololens which currently is shipping Developer versions only and Oculus Go.
The Google Cardboard is Google VR offering which as names suggests comes in cardboard frame. After receiving it you need to just fold it in the VR shape by following instructions. Once there just dock your mobile phone in the cardboard and run the Cardboard VR Application to get immersed in Virtual Reality. It is that simple!
The lens is the key in the Google Cardboard. The version 1 came up with 25mm diameter lens whereas the later ones came up with 34-37mm diameter lens. The larger the lens size, the larger the Field of View thus the more of an image that you can see. However it also depends upon the size of screen of your mobile device. If you are using 5” screen sticking to 25mm may not be a bad idea.
The Daydream is another Google VR offering however it is little more sophisticated than Cardboard however works on similar principle. It is made up of durable fabric material with sufficient cushioning to remain comfortable. It however works on very specific high resolution and powerful mobile devices. In fact iPhone is not the one that can be used with it!
It comes with a Daydream controller through which you can interact with your virtual world. You can as well connect it to Chromecast to stream what you are seeing on a TV and share it with your family and friends.
HTC Vive and Vive Pro
The HTC Vive and Vive Pro are the VR headsets from HTC which packs more hardware than Google Cardboard and Daydream. They consists of in-built AMOLED screens each capable of showing 1400 x 1600 pixels per eye for a combined resolution of 2880 x 1600 pixels at 90Hz refresh rate and 110 degree view (Vive Pro). They also consists of inbuilt 3D/Hi-Res headphones for immersive sound experience as well as microphones for in-gaming chat. They have arrays of sensors to track the positioning of the device and enough cushioning to keep them comfortable for hours of wearing it. They can be connected to Laptop/PC with a wire or wireless through a separately purchased adaptor.
However they still need a host system in form of a moderate to powerful spec Laptop or PC for minimum to optimum experience. The recommended graphics card for best experience are Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070/Quadro P5000 or above, or AMD Radeon™ Vega 56 or above. The headset themselves are quite pricey least the Laptop/PC hardware they demand. However if you are into some serious gaming you should already be having much of it and Vivo would be good complement to complete your experience.
The Oculus is Facebook owned company and has several VR offerings. Amongst them Oculus Rift has an offering similar to HTC Vive (not Pro). It has similar AMOLED screen with combined resolution of 2160 x 1200 at 90Hz with 110 degree view. It however comes clubbed with Oculus controller and is compatible with Microsoft XBox controllers. It also has Oculus sensors to track the position of the headset.
It as well needs a host system to perform the visual rendering. The recommended specs for graphics cards is NVIDIA GTX 1060/AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater, 8 GB RAM, 1 HDMI, 3 USB ports. Again the device is moderately priced but requires a demanding hardware.
The Oculus also designs and creates Samsung Gear VR. It is similar in principle to Google Daydream with exception that it works only with Samsung devices.
Sony PlayStation VR
If you own a Sony PlayStation 4, you are PlayStation VR compatible and can complete you gaming experience by buying one. The PlayStation VR requires PS4 console to function, features 5.7 AMOLED screen @ 120 fps with 360 degree view. It consists of 3D audio with built-in mic for in-gaming chat. It perhaps is the most immersive of all VR Headsets from gaming perspective. You can stream what’s playing on VR Headset to the television set and also separate them to different scene or perspective so as your friends/family can play along with you.
It has 9 directional LEDs which could be used along with the PlayStation camera to track the head movement in 360 degree fashion and is compatible with DualShock 4, Movie Controller and Aim Controller.
The Oculus Go is the Standalone VR offering from Oculus which needs no Computer or Mobile to render graphics. It consists of 5.5 inches LCD screen with a combined resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. It has Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SOC and available in 32GB or 64GB storage configuration. It has 3 hours of operation battery life which take couple of hours to fully recharge. The specifications are at par with the latest android devices but the VR apps for Go are said to give very optimized experience.
The Microsoft Hololens still not fully available to retail consumers but perhaps the most promising VR offering. The name Holo here is intended to say that Hololens features a see through glasses. It means that it is capable of rendering digital world over the real world which is called Mixed Reality. In fact it just makes your physical computer and screen completely redundant and capable of drawing your applications and desktop virtually and digitally on any wall or canvas in your viewport!
It is a standalone device with impressive hardware and needs no Computer to help it capture/render. It features very unique and revolutionary gaze tracking. Microsoft says “Gaze tells you where the user is looking in the world and lets you determine their intent. In the real world, you'll typically look at an object that you intend to interact with. This is the same with gaze.”
On hardware front it consists of See Through Holographic Lens, Custom Microsoft Holographic Processing Unit, 2GB Memory, 64GB Storage. It features 2 hours of battery life and has 3.5 mm headphone jack for headphones.
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