Virtual reality is gaining a lot of traction, thanks to devices like the Oculus Rift and Google Daydream. Albert Ludwig's "magic spectacles" presage the present popularity of virtual reality headsets, 360-degree games, films, and virtual worlds. What system should you purchase, what should you play, and what should you buy? We will untangle all the mysteries in this article.
Palmer Luckey designed the prototype of the virtual reality headgear that would later become the Oculus Rift in 2010. He launched a $250,000 Kickstarter crowdfunding effort to commercialize it two years later, and Oculus was launched with $2.4 million in commitments. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, enjoyed the Rift so much that he acquired it for $2 billion in 2014 — and virtual reality is now a massive industry.
Thousands of creators have developed VR - based games and apps since then. Filmmakers are exploring the potential for documentaries and cartoons, while Facebook and YouTube have joined the 360-degree movie queue.
The headset, which looks like a heavy pair of goggles and fits over your eyes, is the most significant component of a virtual reality system. Some cheaper headsets use a cellphone connected at the front of the headpiece to run applications and games. More costly, higher-quality headsets require a computer connection to operate apps and games. For a completely portable experience, check out the VR-ready laptops on our page best gaming laptop under 1000.
All headsets need a decent pair of headphones. There are various devices available, ranging from hand controls to treadmills, all of which are meant to improve your virtual sensation of being in another world. Hand controllers and standard gaming joypads translate your real-world gestures into whatever game or application you're playing.
Like smartphone app shops, VR systems offer app stores where you can explore and install games and applications. Some of these stores may be accessed directly from the device, while others, such as the VR part of the Steam digital games store, can be accessed via your computer.
360 vs. virtual reality
Although the phrases "360" and "virtual reality" are sometimes used interchangeably, there are significant distinctions between them. The 360-degree photographs and films are panoramas that are stitched together to allow you to rotate your head and look around. These aren't virtual worlds because you don't have as much freedom to walk around as in virtual reality experiences.
However, all VR gadgets combine the two. With the Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard, you can view 360 videos or discover virtual worlds.
Augmented reality vs. virtual reality
Virtual reality involves immersing participants in an entirely virtual environment, which is viewable through a display in the headset; however, the actual world outside is not included in the experience. Other headsets let you experience digital wizardry but offer a different experience called augmented reality. When you look at your pet or a street in augmented reality, you may see digital characters overlaid on them.
Google has given up on trying to sell augmented reality glasses, but more hardware is on the way. With a similar priority on gameplay, Microsoft's HoloLens might be the augmented reality alternative to PlayStation VR. Magic Leap, a Florida-based business, has secured $1.4 billion in investment for its augmented reality headgear and technologies. For the time being, the most cost-effective approach to experiment with augmented reality is through smartphone apps that overlay text and visuals over the camera stream. Augmented reality is used in games like Pokémon Go and Snapchat's face-mashing glasses.
The first commercial version of Oculus Rift was released in early 2016, four years after its first crowdfunding effort. The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset will now work with PCs costing as little as $500, thanks to technology dubbed "asynchronous spacewarp." The official website lists the minimum requirements for an Oculus Ready PC. Dell, HP, Alienware, and Asus all offer VR-ready machines. You can find some high-performance VR-ready gaming laptop deals at reasonable pricing.
Oculus Rift was the first VR headset to be released. It has a thriving community of developers creating games and applications for it - even though some have abandoned it in protest of its founder's political actions. Thanks to Facebook's financial backing, the Rift should be in it for the long run.
A headset with built-in headphones and mic and a movement sensor, remote, and Xbox One controller cost $599 (£549).
The HTC Vive collaborates with HTC, a Taiwanese technology corporation, and Valve, a video game firm. Valve recently launched a particular VR category to its Steam digital games shop. At the same time, HTC just opened its Viveport platform for non-gaming apps.
Though both the Vive and the Oculus Rift have several games and apps, the Vive is a significant competitor. Vive, like the Rift, requires a PC to operate its program, and HTC has a list of Vive Ready machines on its website, which includes partners Alienware, HP, and MSI.
The Vive offers unique features, such as a front-facing camera that may integrate the natural world into your virtual worlds in some programs. Unlike the Rift, you get additional hand-worn gesture controllers in the package, which helps to justify the higher pricing.
The Vive also has a base station that records your motions, allowing you to wander around inside your virtual reality area within specific parameters. This entails a more extended setup procedure than simply putting your stereo on a shelf. But if more applications and games employ the option, it might become the Vive's killer feature.
A $799 (£759) headset comes with two wireless hand-controllers, two base stations, and a connection box to connect it to your computer. The HTC Vive is both the most costly and the most complex to set up a VR headset. However, after you've done setting up, the ability to move about and tilt your head within your virtual world is astounding. Valve's engagement with its Steam shop means there's a large developer community.
Sony PlayStation VR
Sony's PlayStation VR headset, which arrived in October 2016 as a peripheral for the PlayStation 4 gaming platform, is the third major weapon in the VR race. The headsets are compatible with the PlayStation 4 and the upcoming PlayStation 4 Pro. However, the pro will run VR games at greater screen resolutions and frames per second.
The DualShock 4 controller could be used with PlayStation VR, but you'll also need the $60 PlayStation Camera device.
Sony wants PlayStation VR to be more than a solitary experience. So it introduced a function called VR Social Screen, which displays everything you see in the headset on your TV screen, allowing friends to join in or watch.
Because PlayStation VR is part of the PlayStation universe, games will take preference over Oculus Rift and Vive. Sony has already launched over 100 titles.
The CPU unit, earphones, and cables are included in the $399 (£350) headset. PlayStation VR is not just the first console-connected VR headset out of the gate, but it's also the cheapest high-end model, even if you'll need a PS4 to use it. There are some fantastic games, and Sony's clout ensures that a healthy pipeline of titles will be available in the months and years ahead. At the same time, non-game VR apps may be harder to come by.
Samsung Gear VR
We're in the category of VR headsets that use your cellphone both as a display and the CPU. Samsung's headgear is based on Oculus VR technology. However, it isn't as strong as the Rift. Only Samsung's S6 and S7 smartphone series and the Galaxy Note7 phablet are supported.
Although the Gear VR can be purchased separately, some stores may include one with buying a new Samsung smartphone, so it's wise to look for bundle deals.
Samsung's Oculus Home software provides access to games and apps, with a growing library of apps, games, and entertainment. Even while its graphics and the CPU are less powerful than its competitors, the Gear VR offers an affordable option for Samsung customers.
Each headset costs just $100. Gear VR could help bring virtual reality to a broader audience. It comes with a growing library of applications and games. It's one limitation that it can only be used with Samsung devices; thus, iPhone users and other Android users are out of luck.
Google Cardboard and Daydream
Google's first commercial venture towards virtual reality is called Cardboard, and indeed, the headsets were constructed of Cardboard.
Other firms were given access to the standard for these flat-pack headsets. So there are now 13 variants ranging from Google's own basic $15 model to Speck's $70 Pocket-VR with CandyShell Grip, including a protective cover for your smartphone.
From 360-photography to games and documentaries, there are an increasing number of apps accessible on the Android and iOS app stores. Despite the fact that it is not as capable as more costly headsets, some interesting experimenting is going on with this.
Daydream, Google's follow-up to Cardboard, was revealed in May 2016. Its software, which is included in Android Nougat, will be integrated into future Android devices and gear, such as headsets and portable controllers. The Daydream View is a Google headgear constructed of fabric rather than a Cardboard. It also includes a motion controller that translates your movements into applications and games.
Daydream headsets will be supported by Google services such as YouTube, Street View, and Photos. While launch partners Netflix, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Guardian, JK Rowling's Fantastic Beasts, and Major League Baseball will all provide applications. Underworld, a new book from The Guardian, follows an urban explorer into London's underground system of Victorian sewers and vanished streams. Google Cardboard headsets range in price from $15 to $25 (£15 to £25). The Daydream View is $79 (£69) and comes with a controller.
Cardboard headsets and applications are compatible with a broad range of Android and iPhone devices. It will operate with Google's new Pixel smartphones at first. Still, a variety of Daydream-enabled Android phones will be released in the future.
The Gear VR will face stiff competition from Daydream View. Cardboard is excellent for newcomers, and while some of the apps are restricted, others have a lot to see, do, and play with.
Apart from these big names in the headgear industry, many additional virtual reality products are yet to be launched. Because of the early success of the Oculus Rift on Kickstarter, the platform has become a hotbed for VR entrepreneurs with innovative technology.
There are plenty of projects to explore, ranging from headsets to controllers (Impression Pi, ANTVR, Cmoar, Opto, FOVE) (STEM System, Control VR, Gloveone, iMotion), though be warned: Because the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Sony, and Samsung devices get the most attention, you'll want to look into developer support for each device to see whether it's compatible with your system before you spend your money.
Razer's OSVR initiative also aims to build open standards for virtual reality so that customers may combine two headsets and peripherals. Razer is selling two versions of its experimental hacker development kit for the time being. At the same time, the company hopes that manufacturers will adopt its standards to create their own headsets.
Virtual reality beyond gaming
Games are a big deal in current VR, partially because the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR headsets were designed according to the gamers. And partly because games are the most simply accessible entertainment category to demonstrate the technology. But, as Mark Zuckerberg emphasized after Facebook announced its acquisition of Oculus VR, it's about a lot more than simply gaming.
After gaming, we'll use Oculus as a platform for various other experiences. Imagine sitting courtside, learning in the classroom alongside students and teachers worldwide, or visiting a doctor; all of this may be done from the comfort of your own home.
This is a whole new mode of communication. You may share unlimited spaces and experiences with the people if you feel physically present. Imagine sharing moments and complete events and travels with your buddies through the internet.
Even though this current generation of gadgets is still in its early stages, virtual reality as a technology has already seen decades of development (and hype). As a result, while the first wave of applications and games are still working out how to make the most of the technology, you can anticipate VR to grow rapidly.
There's a solid case for waiting until the technology and content developed for it are more well-established, appealing, and affordable. As hundreds of developers, game designers, and filmmakers explore the medium and its immense creative potential. There's a thrill in being one of the first to experience a whole new virtual world of entertainment, knowledge, and communication.