2016 is the year that virtual reality is finally within our grasp, with the launch of some of the biggest VR headsets occurring throughout the first half of the year. The question is, how do they stack up against each other and why should we consider using them for gaming, or even for business purposes?
As the headset that kicked off the obsession for virtual reality, Oculus Rift is hotly anticipated and destined to be scrutinised in particularly high detail as a result. With an RRP of £499 it’s a big investment for gamers, but the support users will likely receive for buying such an expensive piece of kit seems reasonable, with lots of information and forums already available on the Oculus website. With 2160 x 1200 resolution, 90Hz refresh rate and 110 degree field of view, Oculus matches the HTC Vive in many ways but is a little trimmer, sleeker and more lightweight, which could allow for more comfortable gaming sessions.
Created in collaboration with Valve, the HTC Vive is designed for use with Steam and as such is creating a huge buzz in the gaming community. With 70 sensors, 360 degree head-tracking and a 90Hz refresh rate, it is built to prevent blur even at the most intense of gaming moments. With two 1080 x 1200 pixel screens and a 9:5 ratio, the headset offers a tall, immersive image in order to give the most realistic experience. Vive is being dubbed the ‘premium’ alternative to Oculus Rift, which has led many to speculate that pricing could be between £500 and £700, although that’s yet to be confirmed by HTC. As a Steam device, the success of the HTC Vive looks destined to be good; over 75 million people currently use the games distribution service and it is likely that many will want a piece of the VR action.
Sony PlayStation VR (a.k.a. Morpheus)
The PlayStation VR has for a long time been touted as primary competition for Oculus Rift, with many hoping it would be the more affordable and more accessible option. While the price is yet to be confirmed, leaked pricing points and rumours point towards the £360 mark – far from cheap, but no more expensive than a new games console. The device has a 5.7 inch 1920 x 1080 OLED display and 120Hz refresh rate to ensure visuals are smooth, and, as can be expected of electronics giant Sony, build quality of the device is very good.
Microsoft have gone slightly off-course with their VR offering, the HoloLens, which is designed to allow people to freely move around and interact with holograms. Microsoft are focusing on the benefits that HoloLens could bring to businesses, designers and engineers, and celebrating the fact that the device is wireless and ‘designed like a performance car’ to ensure good weight distribution and optimum comfort, seemingly for people to wear for hours of constant work with no inconvenience or discomfort. No commercial pricing for it has been confirmed but development models are priced at a huge $3,000, with developers required to be Windows Insiders to help them shape the way holographic computing progresses.
Razer is part of the open source Virtual Reality ecosystem, which is designed to set an open standard for VR software. The OSVR Hack Dev Kit is currently available at $299.99 (£212) which is much cheaper than many other VR devices, but Razer has made it clear that it is still not a consumer product with a very short 30 day warranty. This suggests that the build quality of the device is not of the highest quality, but since hardware is also open source developers may wish to experiment with creating their own VR glasses. Being an open source device, support for both developers and users will primarily be community-based as people get to grips with playing with VR technology.
Check out more about VR in our latest story.