The virtual reality boom is here and all we can do is embrace it with open arms as it encroaches, slowly but surely. With games becoming more and more open to full VR immersion, it’s hard to blame players who want in on the action. When we were confined to glueing our eyes to screens before, now we have the capability to “immerse” into the VR games through virtual reality headsets. It’s really exciting.
Understandably, various companies are jumping at the chance to get in on the virtual reality market with their own VR headsets and virtual reality games, even Facebook is joining in. Recently, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg made the following comment at this month’s Mobile World Congress regarding VR and Facebook: “Pretty soon we’re going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re right there in person. Imagine being able to sit in front of a campfire and hang out with friends anytime you want. Or being able to watch a movie in a private theatre with your friends anytime you want.” We will be looking at some of the newest and best VR headsets that are already available or coming to the market soon.
Google’s foray into virtual reality headsets comes in the form of Google Cardboard and is our first VR Headset although not quite a headset. Billed as a way to “experience virtual reality in a simple, fun and affordable way,” Google Cardboard’s viewer is easy to buy (and even build!) and access with specialized apps that will let viewers in on a 3D world. Google Cardboard boasts a variety of viewer types fit for any person’s choice of style. The cutest one has to be the View-Master VR! And while not as technologically sophisticated as its more pricey siblings, Google Cardboard is easily the most accessible VR “headset”. Additionally, Google Cardboard focuses more on photos, videos, and learning experiences. It’s perfect for those who don’t want to jump headfirst into the expensive world of VR or those who are content with watching future Virtual reality YouTube videos. Google Cardboard prices start at around $20.
Samsung’s Gear VR
Compatible with select Samsung phones (Such as the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 and S7), Samsungs’ entry into the VR headset arena, in collaboration with Oculus Rift makers Oculus, is far more accessible than more high-end VR headsets and a solid VR headset contender. But even with the smaller asking price, what you get out of it are still worth mentioning. As opposed to focusing solely on gaming, the Gear VR puts the spotlight on immersive movie/video streaming experiences. Netflix streaming is available, as are a variety of virtual reality games to pick from. The only thing hurting the Gear’s chances is its limited compatibility options. The price tag for this isn’t too out there, though: $100 for the gear alone, although you can get this VR Headset for free if you pre-order the upcoming Samsung S7.
We’re getting into the pricier territory, starting off with the HTC Vive VR Headset. The Vive requires a decent gaming PC set-up for it to be used to its full potential. Will the features justify its $799 price tag? The Vive features 32 headset sensors for 360° motion tracking, 110° field of view, and a front-facing camera that “blends real-world elements into the virtual world.” Deeper inside, it has 2160 x 1200 combined resolution and a 90 Hz refresh rate. The Vive VR package itself is pretty meaty from what we’ve seen. For their money’s worth, pre-order customers are getting two wireless controls and two base stations (the Lighthouse system) that enable 360° room-scale motion-tracking on top of the headset itself, along with Tilt Brush, Fantastic Contraption and Job Simulator to seal off the deal. The Vive is expected to be one of the best VR headsets coming to the virtual reality market.
Oculus’ Oculus Rift
This “Facebook” VR headset just might be the most popular VR headset to date. As one of the first few VR brands to make it to the mainstream, the Oculus Rift was first pulled into the limelight via a Kickstarter campaign that raised about $2.4 million in 2012. Since then, it’s gained major prominence in YouTube and pop culture communities at large. Oculus Rift’s features include a display with 110° field of view and 2160 x 1200 resolution, integrated VR audio and a 90Hz refresh rate. Furthermore, the Oculus Rift has the Oculus Touch, a tracked controller for a hands-on VR gaming experience. Pre-orders come with a sensor, remote, a Xbox controller, EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale. It should also be noted that you’re going to need a nice gaming PC rig to get the most out of your money. As for the Oculus Rift’s price? $599.99 for pre-orders, with a release date on March 28, 2016. The Oculus Rift is one of the popular Virtual Reality headsets and with Facebook could well become the most sold Virtual Reality headset available to consumers. Whether it becomes the best VR headset is yet to be determined.
Sony’s PlayStation VR
Never one to miss out on tech trends, Sony’s introduced now highly anticipated virtual reality headset called PlayStation VR. The PlayStation VR brings quite a few features to the table: a “landscape-scanning” full-HD LCD 1080p display, full integration with the PlayStation 4 with the option to use the PlayStation camera for more immersion, 360 degrees of audio, and a high-sensitivity accelerometer and gyroscope running at a frequency of 1000Hz for minimum latency when you move your head. Additionally, the PlayStation VR will be able to connect to other systems for multiplayer gaming. Not bad at all, but we don’t know how things are going on the price-range front as of now, nor on the release date side of things because Sony’s only given us a “first half of 2016!” note. Sony will be able to support its VR headset with a solid line-up of PlayStation VR games and PlayStation 4 owners will be able to immerse themselves into virtual reality through their PS4 consoles.
Update: read our PlayStation VR release announcement for more information.
Our final highly anticipated VR headset is described by computing giant Microsoft as “the first fully untethered, holographic computer, [that enables you] to interact with high-definition holograms in your world”, the Hololens seems to essentially be more of a computing device than dedicated VR gaming hardware. Games are still available, of course. This attempt at mixed reality computing/gaming, where objects are brought into the real world, is an ambitious if not admirable one, but we can’t wait to find out more about what the Microsoft Hololens is capable of. It comes with a just as lofty price-tag, too: the Development Edition costs $3,000 dollars. And while that isn’t a metric for the final asking price, it’s still up there compared to the other highly anticipated virtual reality headsets listed in this article.