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Virtual Reality headsets

23/01/2017
Virtual Reality headsets

As many gifts were unwrapped just a few weeks ago, you can be sure that someone out there was the lucky recipient of one of the more futuristic gadgets that have recently begun to enter the commercial marketplace – the virtual reality headset.

We’ve already seen some major steps forward for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology in 2016. Oculus Rift was released to positive reception, and thousands of VR apps and games have followed. We also saw Pokémon Go (an AR game) explode onto the scene with over 100 million downloads. The market is clearly ready for AR and VR, and we’ve already got some early-stage devices and tech for these applications, but it’s going to be next year before we see things really take off. We need to be ready for AR and VR versions of practically everything - and the ample marketing opportunities that will follow.

2016 has been the year where any semblance of Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR and the HTC Vive have taken the medium to the mainstream. To experience Virtual Reality today, one just needs a smartphone or compatible gaming console connected to a headset. 360° videos, virtual tours and video games are among the various types of easily accessible VR entertainment.

One of the most popular virtual reality headset at the moment is the Oculus Rift - a headset that has spent some years in development and was even bought by Facebook for $2bn (which indicates that VR has more potential than just gaming). Oculus worked directly with Microsoft during development and offers plug-and-play support for Windows 10 users, something no other headset can offer. It connects to one’s computer via DVI or USB ports, and features built-in headphones, although these can be removed if one prefers to one’s own.

Interestingly, the PlayStation VR headset is the only VR headset for console gamers – Microsoft offers a way for gamers to play Xbox One games through the Oculus Rift, even though, for the time being, it isn’t VR-enabled. Sony’s virtual reality offering was launched in October 2016, and features a 5.7-inch OLED display that will provide gamers with low persistence and, consequently, less motion blur when being used. It also boasts ultra-low latency (18ms) and a 120Hz refresh rate, which is better than the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive's 90Hz offering. Obviously advantages will rise and fall as the different platforms compete, specs change and newer versions get released.

However, the constant difficulty that will always remain is in picking the right headset that best fits ones’ needs and taste. To do so, the prospective buyer has to consider on the following five key areas:

Price: VR headsets can run from extremely reasonable to exceptionally expensive. One would expect that as the technology becomes more readily available, pricing will also become more competitive.

Experience: Having a VR headset with customisable elements like a focus wheel and customisable holder for various cell phones is highly recommended.

Field of view: The field of view is the size of the photo that one sees when wearing the headset. The wider the field of view, the more immersive the experience.

Spectacles: For those who wear sighted glasses, finding a VR headset which has room for such allowances is worth considering as most of the VR headsets out there are designed for a tight fit.

Weight: Some headsets are designed to disperse their weight, with the goal being that of a lighter feeling for the end user, while other headsets appear to have most of the weight on the nose.

At the end, it probably all boils down to how much time one plans to spend using the headset. Answering this question essentially answers all sorts of other VR related questions. Do you want the ease of a wireless headset? In that case, go for a mobile headset like a Gear VR or Daydream View. Are you excited about getting to grips with handheld controllers in games? Then look at the PlayStation VR, Vive and Rift.

 Moreover, there's also the issue of set-up and space. If you're a gamer and plan to spend hours wearing these devices, you won't mind setting up the PlayStation Camera or the Vive's base stations for room scale headset and controller tracking. You also probably won't mind rearranging some furniture... On the other hand, if you're not very tech inclined, a mobile VR headset means you just have to download an app, click on experiences and slot your phone in – you're away within minutes. For both casual and hardcore gamers, as well as the 'casual' group who want to try out the 360-degree docs, live events and broader entertainment offerings, there's also the age-old question of what your friends have.

To conclude with, most of the platforms nowadays offer plenty of introductory apps and experiences, particularly the Gear VR. However, only the Sony, Oculus and HTC add the longer, fully fledged games into the mix.

What is certain is that the technology is highly advanced from what it used to be and for those that were lucky enough to get such a gift, the experience will no doubt be thrilling. The rest of us will have a to wait a while longer!

 

Jonathan Mizzi is manager of Deloitte Digital Cloud & Hosting services. For more info, please visit www.deloittedigital.com.mt