Virtual Reality has come a long way from the 1990s. For every attempt at the most realistic technology our progress brought us back then, there were the VR Troopers, the Virtual Boy and Sega’s failed attempt at a headset. According to the 1990s, virtual reality consisted of a lot of grids, weird shapes and induced headaches from staring at too much of the colour red all day. It’s no wonder the idea died almost as quickly as it began.
Nearly 25 years have passed since VR was at the forefront. Technology has progressed to the point where not only can the idea of VR immersion be as fun and easy as the 90s tried to make it be, but it’s believable and inexpensive. Even View Master (remember those?) has thrown their proverbial hat in the virtual reality ring.
Whether you’re all-in on the renaissance of virtual reality or just a fringe follower looking to dip their feet into the VR pool, let’s take a look at some of the different tiers of interest and some of the gadgets that go with them.
What do I need to get started?
For most of you budding enthusiasts,
you already have the most important starter piece you need: Your smartphone. If your smartphone is fairly new (say, manufactured in the last couple years,) you’ve already got the main driving force behind your VR experience. All you need is basic headgear and you’ll be set to go! The best part about enjoying today’s immersion is that it’s pretty affordable. You don’t have to break the bank anymore to give it a shot. Sure, there are a few exceptions and we’ll talk about those a little further down but you can easily get up and running with beginner gear for under 50 bucks. As with any technology question, you can begin by contacting Geek Squad, either at your local Best Buy, by phone or online. Contact Geek Squad for assistance with your Mobile VR setup.
Virtual Reality for Beginners (Light Mobile VR)
These types of devices geared more toward you casual VR fans or those just looking to take it for a test spin. With these types of beginner gadgets, your smartphone provides much of the action. To get these to work, you grab whichever apps you’ll be playing around with, simply follow the instructions to sit your smartphone into the housing among the lenses and partake.
You have two different types of gadgets at this level. First, you have a fairly simple viewer. These types of things tend to be made fairly simply and don’t have much to them. Take the Insignia Virtual Reality Viewer, for instance. It looks pretty simple on the surface. Made of mainly foam, cardboard and the attached lenses, you just download whatever apps you’d like to experience from your appropriate app store, slot your smartphone in and enjoy! Since this is a viewer style device, you’ll have to hold onto it the whole time.
If you’ve seen the self-sufficient headsets and that’s what interests you, there are a few at this level too. You don’t have to sacrifice quality for price either. If you take something like ReTrak Utopia 360 VR Headset, you’ve got a great looking and fitting headset for just a few bucks more than a viewer. This headset fits most smartphones with up to 6” screens and has form fitting features to contour to your face. Since it’s light weight, you won’t feel much, if any, strain from its weight.
If you’re looking for something a little bit more serious, try the next step up.
Intermediate Level VR Devices (Premium Mobile VR)
With this level of VR Devices, things get a little bit more serious. Headsets here are not only optimized for better VR experiences, but come with higher quality lenses and more diverse fitting options. Some headsets in this tier, like the Samsung Gear VR Headset can fit over eyeglasses if you wear them. The NOON VR Headset has lenses that can help adjust VR field of view for focus adjustment of eyesight ranging from -8 to +4 dioptre. The Homido VR Headset comes with a bunch of different fitting options to help you figure out the best fit for however long you’ll be wearing your device (whether it is simple gaming or watching movies.)
Basic functionality of these headsets is similar to the entry level ones. You still need a compatible smartphone in order to use them. However, these headsets are a bit sturdier and come with a few more comfort and functionality options.
If you’re not interested in smartphone optics and simple games, however, the next tier is for you. These are the kings of the mountain, so to speak. Put your smartphone aside and get immersed in the most hardcore experiences yet.
Virtual Reality for Serious Gamers (Tethered Premium VR)
At this point, you’ve gotten this far in the blog and thought “I need something a bit more robust” or you’re a hardcore gamer looking for something to throw everything in toward. That’s where these heavy hitters come in. The PlayStation VR, for example, is serious hardware. Inside this lighted headset is a 5.7” OLED panel that displays in vibrant 1080p. The PlayStation VR setup can also display you (the gamer) a different image and setup than your audience if the game supports it. With around 200 developers onboard, you’ll never find a shortage of things to do on your PlayStation 4. Imagine the possibilities to come from future Sony franchise titles like Gran Turismo, or first person titles like Doom or Call of Duty!
If you’re a hardcore PC Gamer, give the Oculus Rift VR Headset a look. One of crowdfunding’s early success stories, the Oculus Rift might just be the device that kickstarted (no pun intended) the Virtual Reality revolution. This is another very serious piece of hardware, featuring adjusting headphones, a 120 degree scanning motion sensor to capture your movements and gaming functions with an XBox One controller (included in the package.) In just a few weeks, the Oculus Touch will release too and with it, the creation of a set of virtual hands through controllers that slide onto your wrists. How’s that for taking your immersion to the next level?
You do need a pretty good PC that’s up to the challenge though. Before you jump in, you may want to check system settings. You can download a compatibility checker here and make your way through more info about the Oculus Rift.
A few last things to think about
Playing around with VR isn’t for everyone. Oculus, for example recommend that children under the age of 13 don’t play with their product. Sony has stated the PlayStation VR is to be played only by children ages 12 and up. Be sure that you’re playing in a fairly wide open space without a lot of tripping hazards. Every family had that aunt who would pull their Nintendo controller up in the air thinking it made Mario jump higher. Now picture that aunt with a VR headset on playing a survival horror game. In other words, hide the breakables. Be sure that you thoroughly read through the manual and follow recommendations on how often to take breaks or clear your head.
Above all, have fun. VR is a great addition to your tech setup and it’s here to stay.