Innovators have been dabbling in VR for decades. Back in the early 90’s virtual reality systems such as Sega VR and the $73,000 Virtuality pods were causing a buzz, but they never slimmed down to a sensible size and made it out of the arcades and into people’s homes.
There was never any doubt that VR would one day arrive in a practical form and revolutionize home theatre and immersive gaming. While smartphones and all other things smart that give you superfast access to the internet have been getting all the attention in recent years, VR has been quietly evolving in the background. The term that has always been the most strongly associated with VR is “Sometime in the future”.. Until now.
The Best VR Headsets Arriving in 2016
The Oculus Rift has been the center of attention among a new wave of Virtual Reality headsets since it smashed its Kickstarter goal in less than 24 hours back in 2012. Interest blew up again when Facebook announced they’d agreed to acquire the VR startup – which they did for a sweet $2b.
The Oculus Rift specs include: 2160 × 1200 resolution OLED display, a refresh rate of 90Hz (frames per second), a 110 degree field of view (approx), and built-in headphones and microphone.
The highly anticipated VR headset will come bundled with a platformer that’s set to breathe new life into the genre called Lucky’s Tale. A number of other titles are being developed for the release of the Oculus, including the epic space-based Valkyrie.
A partnership with Microsoft means that each Oculus Rift will be bundled with an Xbox One controller. Also, Windows 10 supports streaming to the VR headset, and Xbox One games can be streamed through a Virtual Cinema feature.
Special haptic controllers called Oculus Touch were going to be launching with the VR headset in Q1 of 2016, but a few days ago it was announced on the Oculus blog that the Touch launch will be put back to the second half of 2016.
How much will the Oculus Rift cost… Not sure, but it won’t be cheap – especially considering you’ll probably need to upgrade your PC as well.
The release date for the consumer-ready Oculus is Q1 of 2016 – can’t be any more specific than that right now.
Update: Pre-orders are now open for the Oculus Rift. It will begin shipping on March 28th 2016 for the price of $599, and will also be available from select retailers starting in April.
The HTC Vive was announced in March 2015. The VR headset is powered by SteamVR, an extension of the Steam entertainment platform by Valve. The partnership between HTC and Valve is almost heavenly if you’re partial to high-quality. HTC make some damn fine hardware and Valve are the leading architects of virtual worlds with previous titles such as Half-Life and Portal.
The HTC Vive developer edition specs include: 2160 x 1200 OLED display, a refresh rate of 90Hz (frames per second), 110 degree field of view (approx) and a laser position sensor which precisely tracks your head rotation on both axes to an accuracy of 1/10th of a degree.
There’s not a great deal of information about the SteamVR controllers, apart from they contain high-resolution trackpads and they are extremely precise. Any PC compatible gamepad can be used with the headset.
Developer edition Vives are already being put to good use and more 2nd-gen dev kits will be shipping in early 2016 before the consumer-ready headset is launched in April 2016, according to a post on HTC’s Facebook page
The price hasn’t been revealed yet, but HTC and Valve are scheduled to make some big announcements over the next few days at CES.
Update: The price of the HTC Vive has been announced at $799 USD.. Pre-orders open on February 29th. Shipping will begin in early April.
Sony Playstation VR
Playstation VR, or PSVR was first unveiled at the Game Developers Conference – GDC 2014 under the codename Project Morpheus. The PSVR headset runs on the Playstation 4 console which has been built to support stereoscopic 3D. An external USB/HDMI unit is also part of the setup and allows others in the room to watch the action on a TV screen.
The PSVR specs include: 5.7-inch OLED 1920 x RGB x 1080 (960 x RGB x 1080 per eye) display, 120hz, 90hz refresh rate, 100 degree field of view (approx), super-low latency at under 18 milliseconds, integrated microphone, 3D audio through headphone jack, and available microphone input, accelerometer, gyroscope, and 360 degree head tracking by way of the Playstation Camera and 9 LEDs on the headset.
One advantage the Playstation VR has over the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive is you won’t need a wallet-unfriendly beefed-up PC to run it – but obviously you’ll need a PS4 – which at $350 USD shouldn’t break your bank too much.
So far it looks like the DualShock 4 and the motion-sensing Playstation Move will be used to control the VR.
There’s no shortage of upcoming games for the Playstation VR with titles such as Gran Turismo Sport and Tekken 7 which I’m very happy about..
Hopefully Sony will announce the price of their VR system during their press conference at CES tomorrow. Also it would be good if they elaborate on the release date which they previously confirmed would be in the first half of 2016.
Update: The official Playstation VR release date will be October 2015 with a price tag of £349.99.
FOVE pride themselves as being the creators of the world’s first eyetracking VR headset. Inside the headset are two infrared sensors that track the movement of your pupils with an accuracy 0.2 degrees enabling your virtual world to literally react at the speed of thought.
FOVE registers each expression of the eye and knows exactly where you’re looking in the virtual space, allowing it to focus high fidelity on the focal point of the VR scene – much like the naked human eye. Allocating the high fidelity only to points where it’s needed also puts less strain on low-end hardware, resulting in better performance – or you could say “more bang for the buck.”
According to FOVE, using your eyes as controllers reduces VR motion sickness through the elimination of unnecessary movements and provides a more realistic experience than competing VR solutions. FOVE’s eyetracking technology goes way beyond VR gaming as it enables users to control other devices solely with eye movements.
The FOVE specs include: 5.8 inch display with a resolution of 2560 x 1440, a refresh rate of 60Hz (90Hz projected), a field of view of 100 degrees (approx), a low latency head tracking system, and a 3.5mm port for plugging in your headphones.
The FOVE head mounted display (HMD) is powered by connecting to a PC via a mini display port and USB 3.0. There are no minimum PC specs required, but you will need a dedicated graphics card capable of running modern games at WQHD (2560×1440) at 100FPS or higher is recommended.
FOVE is compatible with most game engines, including Cryengine, Unity and Unreal Engine. The VR startup is encouraging developers to get involved in creating and converting games for the eyetracking VR headset. They also hope to make FOVE compatible with the major gaming consoles in the not so distant future. A full SDK will be available when the developer kit starts shipping in Q1 of 2016.
The expected retail price of FOVE VR is $400 – $500 USD