Virtual Reality Headsets available or under development in 2015

Virtual Reality is the latest buzz in the tech industry. It takes you in to a whole new virtual world to interact with your friends, family, colleagues or gaming characters. Gamers are particularly excited about virtual reality because it will take gaming to a whole new level. We have already seen game graphics becoming increasingly closer to reality and virtual reality will be a major step forward. Let’s take a look at some of the virtual reality headsets in development.

1)     Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift is the reason why virtual reality is getting so much attention. It is one of the most popular Kickstarter campaigns ever. Even though Oculus Rift has been delayed a lot but still the hype didn’t go away. It was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion and it is on the verge of releasing its first virtual reality headset.

Rift features high-definition display panels and connects to your PC via DVI and USB ports. The headset tracks head movements and users can interact with the environment using Oculus’ own touch controllers or Microsoft Xbox One’s controller. Oculus Rift is schedule to launch by the end of 2015.

2)     Sony Morpheus

Sony is also preparing a virtual reality headset for the PlayStation 4. The headset is still in development unlike Oculus Rift which shipped development kits to its Kickstarter backers. Morpheus features a 5.7-inch OLED display with better motion blur and low persistence. Although PS4’s hardware is not powerful enough to run games at 120 FPS but refresh rate of Morpheus is upgraded to 120 Hz from the original 60 Hz. Sony has embedded a range of sensors in to the headset to improve head tracking and providing a better VR experience to the user. The headset is expected to launch in the second half of 2016.

3)     Samsung Gear VR

Samsung’s Gear VR is the first headset to enter the retail arena. Samsung developed Gear VR specifically for its phones. It is powered by Oculus Rift but is only compatible with Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S6 phones. Compatibility with Galaxy S6 phones depends on the model’s display and processor. Instead of connecting to your phone wirelessly, Galaxy phone slots in front of the lens into a micro-USB dock. The headset does not have any built-in display. Instead, Gear VR utilizes the smartphone’s Super AMOLED screen. Gear VR is utilized for watching HD content as well as playing VR games.

Samsung has built its own virtual reality app store called Milk VR. The store contains dozens of VR-compatible games and videos. The content is still in early stages so Samsung needs much more videos and games to take this headset mainstream. Nevertheless it’s one of the first headsets to hit the market at a price of just $199.

4)     HTC Vive

HTC’s smartphone business might be doomed but its virtual headset is potentially a competitor to Samsung and Sony. HTC has partnered with Valve to develop a Steam VR headset. Steam is already the largest gaming community in the world. Almost every new game makes its way to Steam and millions of gamer clock billions of hours of game-play each day. Valve has already launched Steam OS and it’s planning on taking over the hardware side of gaming. Vive is another step by Valve to enter the gaming hardware industry, and for HTC to step up its game after a failed smartphone business.

HTC Vive has an identical design compared to Oculus Rift but all the sensors are clearly visible in the front. Vive has the support from the overwhelming community of Steam so it has a promising future. The headset features a total of 70 sensors and full 360-degree head-tracking. The built-in display has a 90 Hz refresh rate and very low latency. Vive is accompanied by “context aware controller” for interaction inside the virtual world.

5)     Razer OSVR

Technically Razer OSVR is not a headset for the masses. Instead it’s a development kit for developers to help with create VR apps. The open source nature of this kit allows it to be free from the hardware and software limitations other proprietary solutions present. Hopefully Razer’s solution helps the VR community grow rapidly.

6)     Google Cardboard

This is the cheapest virtual reality headset. It is a minimalistic headset made out of cardboard featuring just two lenses. It does not have any fancy sensors or head tracker embedded inside it. Rather, it is a simple piece of cardboard which is shaped like a headset and can be used with any smartphone. Google wants everyone to experience VR so it developed this cheap solution so users can just plug their phones into the front and enjoy the VR experience. Similar to Samsung Gear VR, the phone is placed at the front and Google Cardboard utilizes the phone’s own display panel for visuals.

Your smartphone already has the necessary sensors to track head movements so Google did not install any sensors in the Cardboard. There is a gallery of VR apps and content on Play Store which you can download and enjoy the VR experience.

Virtual Reality is a very exciting prospect especially for gamers. They will finally get to experience being inside the games they love. They will indulge and connect with their character at a personal level and roam around in a virtual world. Most of the headsets are launching this year while the rest are schedules for launch early next year. These headsets haven’t fully solved the issue of motion sickness that users may experience. In the background, this is a problem that all the vendors are working on solving.

Image Credit: Virtual Reality Headset Prototype by Gabriel Saldana under CC License 2.0 

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