2016 is the year of Virtual Reality going mainstream, with some one-piece VR headsets made available to the public, and lower prices & more diversification for the smartphone-integrated devices.
I’m excited to share a bunch of news and articles that are definitely confirming that 2016 is widely expected to be the year of VR – going mainstream!
A few months back I shared an introductory article by Wareable about the best VR headset, see it in context here.
In mid January Wareable published an updated article with an overview of all the best VR headsets priced up for sale, new VR products and specs.
There are a few good news in there, like the bench-marker Samsung Gear VR now officially out for grab at the ‘affordable price’ of $99 from Oculus website (Gear VR is indeed powered by Oculus). There is already a dedicated marketplace of compatible VR video content called Milk VR (a free platform where users can upload and download short 360 degree videos, mainly Sports, Science and Entertainment, at the moment just available in the US), have a taster here.
Perhaps, the most comparable to the Gear VR is the Zeiss VR One, with a price tag of $120. Like the Gear VR, the hardware source here is your smartphone, but the difference stands in the wider adaptability, as the Zeiss VR One will accommodate any iOS or Android smartphone between 4.7 and 5.2 inches. Also, the added quality of Zeiss optics.
On the cheap side, Google has updated his Google Cardboard into a Version 2.0 named IamCardboard: a new design with three-step assembly procedure, an improved control button and support for smartphones up to 6-inches. One of the biggest improvements is that the software development kit for its Cardboard headset will support spacial audio (the audio in the VR experience will behave more like to the sounds we hear in our everyday lives), as announced by the Google Developers.
The new version also comes in 5 colors (red, yellow, blue, white and black) besides the original …hem, cardboard color! Check this video review and Google Cardboard for sale on their dedicated website imcardboard.com at $19.99
Google made everyone excited with its a simple DYI cardboard support, also due to several the new VR initiatives unveiled: Expeditions – en school focused interactive educational too, Jump – Google’s new platform making it easier for developers to create VR videos and a partnership with Go Pro, on the same project. Check out this related article.
Dodo Case is a cardboard pop-up support comparable to Google Cardboard and you can see it here, priced at $25.
Durovis Dive is essentially the same thing with a cardboard and a plastic version for smartphones (Dive Cardboard and Dive 5) and a version for 7″ tablets (Dive 7″). Dive 5 costs around $60 and you can find it here.
I love these cardboard viewers as they represent a low-cost way to experience virtual reality. My favorite VR Porn provider, BaDoink, gives a free Cardboard Goggles with every subscription.
Obviously, the more sophisticated the headset, the more immersive the experience, but these little fold-ups are a great start, as our smartphones do have all the necessary gyroscopic sensors, high-res screens and positioning systems to accurately track the head movements. In fact, Amazon is swamped by all sorts of cardboard and plastic version and look-a-like of the ones headsets that started the VR wave.
Oculus Rift, the one that started all the VR fuss, it’s now available for pre-order (shipping March 2016) at a price of $599. You can pre-order the Oculus Rift here. Check out this complete review by Wareable of the Oculus Rift in its consumer edition, which will give you a good idea on what to expect.
Prices remain undisclosed for the Sony PlayStation VR (formerly named Project Morpheus), announced for release on the first half of 2016, with a number of reported technical improvements. You can check out this article comparing the two upcoming headsets, Oculus and Playstation VR.
On the same note, due in the shops in April 206 is the HTC Vive Pre model; this second generation is stretching the boundaries in terms of responsiveness set by the Oculus and PlayStation. This is a good overview. The price to the public hasn’t been make known yet.
On the expensive side, you have Fove VR available at $349 at getfove.com. The strength of FOVE is differing from the likes of Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR because it offers interactive eye-tracking (an infrared sensor inside the headset monitors the wearer’s eyes; offering both a new control method and an edge on its competitors when it comes to realism).
On a similar price range comes the Razer’s OSVR, but this is more intended for developers working on apps and gaming, and open-source is most probably what will feed future developments of this product. The general public can now order the Dev Kit at razerzone.com for $299.99 but they made clear it’s not a consumer’s product yet and therefore has warranty limited to 30 days.
The one product that merges VR with AR (Augmented Reality) is Microsoft HoloLens, due in its Development Edition in 2016 with a price-tag of $3,000.
The device merges real world elements with virtual ‘holographic’ images, recognize gestures and voice commands, the headset has a 120 degree field of vision on both axis, is capable of ‘high definition’ visuals and there’s no connection to a PC (a full Windows 10 system is built into the headset and runs off a battery).
According to the writer of this article on Time the most unexpectedly surprising aspect was the sound experience, as spatial audio makes the experience feel much more realistic and immersive.
Here’s a video preview for the HoloLens.
Obviously, VR is going to be a hot topic in 2016 if even Google is getting serious about Virtual Reality.
It’s great to see VR going mainstream, and used for a wide array of applications, from educational purposes to of course entertainment; and hopefully user generated content that will give a real boost to Virtual Reality.