Last year I literally counted down the days to Christmas Eve. The Samsung Gear VR was in stores the day before Christmas Day, and I was most definitely planning to spend Christmas Eve in the latest virtual reality headset. John Lewis was the nearest store that had them in stock and on 24 December I skipped straight to customer service to get the newly released Gear VR. I had it in my hands later that day and I spent the rest of 2015 completely mesmerised with it.
This was December 2015. 10 months on and the market for virtual reality headsets has grown substantially, particularly for mobile, providing consumers and studios like ours with more options than ever. There are two types of Virtual Reality (VR) headset: tethered and mobile.
Tethered VR headset
Tethered headsets typically connect to PCs through a cable and are much larger, resource intensive and expensive (upwards of £300). They tend to come with dedicated motion sensors and controllers, and in comparison to mobile, have far more advanced head tracking and motion sensing capabilities allowing for greater mobility in your physical space.
Mobile VR headset
The smartphone you carry around in your pocket is both your processor and display output. The number of mobile VR headsets has exploded in 2016. “The best 10 headsets under $100” by Hypergrid business indicates the growing appetite for mobile powered VR. However the affordable price tag comes with some compromise and these headsets are essentially visors with lenses.
So, which VR headset?
Each virtual reality headset has its own benefits and limitations, whether tethered or mobile. The choice of which is best suited to your idea is entirely dependent on your objectives, usage and budget. After spending the last 22 months building experiences for both mobile and tethered on the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and the Samsung GearVR, we have a solid understanding of how to get the most out of a mobile or PC powered headset.
Here’s a summary of the top 6:
Released early spring, the HTC Vive is currently the most high end full package consumer device available on the market. It comes with a headset, two tracking cameras which cover a max area of 5m2 and two controllers. The product has been created with room scale experiences in mind – everything you need to get going is in the box. The opportunities for brands and products are limitless – there is now ample virtual and real world space for digital worlds, with a controller in each hand to interact and create!
Similar to the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift is a premium product powered by a mid to high end PC. Originally released this summer as a headset with a single tracking sensor, the Oculus Touch controllers are now available on preorder. These come with a second camera sensor bar, which you’ll need to distinguish your hands from your head. Earlier this year, room scale VR experiences was a feature exclusively associated with the HTC Vive. This feature is now possible with the Oculus Touch controllers and a third camera, of which both need to be purchased in addition to the headset.
PlayStation VR (PSVR)
Last week I had the chance to experience the new Sony PlayStation VR (PSVR). It’s a good looking, super comfortable headset, and with a price point that’s in between mobile and tethered, a great option. The headset alone is around £400, add the camera and pair of Move Controllers to your bundle and you’re looking at £500 upwards. You’ll also need a PS4, or the PS4 Pro coming out in November.
Launched in 2015, Samsung GearVR was one of the first mobile headsets on the market. At £80 it’s affordable and as Samsung smartphones held 20.7% market share by Q4 2015, there’s a strong consumer base ready for uptake. Now working towards their third gen, it’ll be interesting to see where Samsung take the GearVR as Google and Sony PlayStation have entered the market.
Fove is a little bit different from all the rest, offering eye tracking accuracy. Through two small infra-red eye tracking systems at 120 fps per eye, this latest piece of hardware to hit the market is promising. Available on pre-order, Fove already have partnered up with over 7,000 Internet cafes in Japan and Korea.
Google’s Daydream View VR
Launched last month, this is a hugely exciting piece of kit to enter the market. Unlike it’s predecessor Google Cardboard; the Daydream View VR is ergonomic, comfortable, lightweight (30% lighter than its competitors) and affordable. What sets it apart from other mobile powered VR headsets is the Daydream controller. We expect there to be many more Daydream Ready phones entering the market that will certainly increase the consumer base of this headset.
Each piece of hardware comes with its own considerations. We’ve put together a table summarising key features.
Interested in creating a VR experience for your brand or product? Get in touch!