When you speak to someone of a certain age about Virtual Reality they will instantly think of The Lawnmower Man or a really basic 3D model programme, or even Knightmare, the ITV kids programme. These were all glimpses of what we were to expect in the future. Today we are hurtling towards a future where VR could possibly be the biggest form of entertainment and recreation, but we’re maybe not there yet. In this blog, we’ll look at the VR options available on the market today.
What types of VR is available?
I’m going to categorise the types of VR headsets available into three categories: Cheap, mid-range and high-end.
At the bottom end of the market, VR headsets are made from cardboard. Yes, the material used for transporting good has found a niche in VR. In short your place your smartphone inside the cardboard box to provide your immersive experience. The VR app you are using will split the screen into two screens (one for each eye). This is viewed through lenses to create your virtual world. By all reports, the lack of head strap and audio integration don’t really create an immersive world. They are also regarded as uncomfortable. They are very, very cheap though.
The wide range I’d call mid-range VR headsets are a mixed bag offering a wide range of features. Generally, these headsets are phone powered but have features including tracking sensors, built-in controls, focus wheels and sometimes they even have their own screens. These generally tend to be in the £20-£150 price range. These offer better immersion but can open the door to motion sickness when compared to cheap models. Positional sensing, where the special movement of your head instead of simply the direction it’s turning in, can help stop this, but this feature isn’t really an option on mid-range headsets – yet. These headsets can be paired with controllers for playing games and offer the most effective experience/cost ratio at the moment.
Currently, the best quality VR experienced come from headsets that tether to games consoles and PCs (sorry Mac users). These headsets feature motion tracking, high-resolution screens and the best graphics currently available. They are the best at blocking out external light sources and help to reduce motion sickness. These headsets are in the £250+ price range. One of the most impressive features that these headsets have is the ability to walk through space in your virtual world. This is done by adding LEDs to the headset that are filmed by external cameras that work out where you are within a defined space. The hand controllers for gaming are generally more involved on these higher end headsets. Motion controllers allow you to play games in the virtual world as well as traditional console-style gamepads.
I hope this has enlightened you as to the type of headsets available. As with any early adoption, there are going to be devices that take off and some that don’t, so it’s really up to you to see how much you really want to get into VR. As with any device, I’d advise going to a shop to try it out. Only then will you be able to make an informed decision.