By now, you’ve probably heard that a great revolution is on the way. How we experience media is going to change. Immersion, new ways to connect, and technology that we could only dream of in the past has now flooded the markets. If you haven’t guessed it already, then let me enlighten you.
I’m talking about Virtual Reality, the next major, technological breakthrough.
What makes virtual reality so great I hear you ask? For the first time in our lives, we have the opportunity to dive into fictional worlds, the kind of which we could only visit by using our computers. From seeing a movie in a virtual cinema to playing a game immersive enough to lose yourself inside, virtual reality has the power to revolutionize the way we experience everything around us.
So, I’m sure you’re asking yourselves: what can I do to get my hands into this technology? Well, depending on your budget and the level of immersion you want to achieve, you have multiple choices.
Let’s start with the cheaper and less immersive one:
Like the name implies, Google Cardboard is a headset made from cardboard that uses your mobile phone as both the main processing unit and screen for your experience. Google Cardboard's popularity peaked months before more powerful headsets entered the market due to accessibility and a much lower price, but that doesn't mean it lessened.
Labeled "VR for the masses", Google Cardboard can be your perfect introductory medium to VR. All you need is your phone and a Google Cardboard headset.
Next one in the line is:
Using the same concept behind Google Cardboard, but considerably limiting the choice of phones compatible with the headset, Samsung Gear VR is the choice for all of you people not very fond of cables.
A surprise collaboration between the Facebook-owned company, Oculus VR, and Samsung gave birth to Samsung Gear VR. As of now, the price for a headset is around £80, but that's only true if you own one of the certified Samsung Galaxy models able to use it. As of now, the list of compatible phones is:
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7
- Samsung Galaxy S7
- Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5
- Samsung Galaxy S6
- Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
- Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+
But, Samsung Gear VR remains a cheaper choice than the following:
What started as Project Morpheus and evolved into Playstation VR, is one of the high-end headsets that we've been expecting for years. Scheduled to be released on October 13, 2016, Playstation VR is a Head Mounted Display (HMD) for the Playstation 4, a gaming console with a plethora of games and a good number of VR games in development.
The pre-order price for the headset is around £350. A Playstation Camera and Playstation Move are both needed for the optimal, immersive experience but not included in the price. Also, if you don't already own a Playstation 4 System, you'll have to buy one before buying the headset.
The bundle of Playstation VR includes:
- PlayStation VR headset
- Processor unit
- Stereo earbuds
- HDMI cable
- USB cable
- AC adaptor and power cord
- PS VR headset connection adaptor
Nevertheless, Playstation VR is cheaper and more accessible than the following last two choices. The cheaper one of them is Oculus Rift, the forefather of the modern Virtual Reality Headsets.
Oculus Rift is the product of Oculus VR, which is now owned by Facebook is the original company that started the hype around Virtual Reality. Oculus Rift is using PC as its only platform, and for a good reason. As of now, it's difficult to match Oculus Rift's immersion without having a top-of-the-line rig, which is something only the PC can accomplish.
If you’re interested in owning an Oculus Rift headset, then you’ll have to make sure your PC is following the recommended specification. That is the following:
- Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
- CPU: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
- Memory: 8GB+ RAM
- Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
- USB Ports: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
- OS: Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer
Entering at £550 the Oculus Rift isn't the cheapest available VR Headset but it's one of the top contenders to give you the best immersive Virtual Reality experience.
And last, but certainly not least, what has become the crowd (and critics) favourite, is the most expensive but most popular choice and in my opinion the headset to rule them all:
HTC Vive is the product of another surprise collaboration in the wake of a Virtual Reality-struck world. HTC & Valve came up with a surprising headset that mixes seamless immersion with innovative technology.
What makes HTC Vive differentiate itself from every other headset in the industry is its excellent, position tracking system called Room Scale. In short, it's a system that tracks your physical position and accurately translates it to the digital world. So, you can get up and walk around your room, and the system will track your movements in great detail. The recommended specs for HTC Vive are:
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon™ RX 480 equivalent or greater
- CPU: Intel® i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater
- RAM: 4GB+
- Video Output: HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer
- USB Port: 1x USB 2.0 or greater port
- Operating System: Windows 7 SP1 or newer
So, there you have it. That is pretty much everything you need to know if you want to get into the VR hype-train. Even though most of the headsets mentioned above have already seen a public release and are available for purchase, make sure you delve deeper into the secrets of virtual reality before spending your money on high-end hardware.
Virtual Reality is still at the dawn of its rise. In the coming years, the industry is expected to skyrocket even faster than the smartphone industry did before it. Thus, if you can't wait until prices become consumer-friendly, then go ahead and buy one of the headsets mentioned above and get lost in a new and exciting world of your choosing.