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- VR headsets: what you should look for
- Cardboard VR glasses
- Samsung Gear VR
- Virtual reality outside of Android
Most smartphone VR headsets are unsuitable for people who wear glasses. Your eye area should be as close as possible to the VR headset as possible. Those who wear glasses will find it near impossible to have a pleasant viewing experience, seeing as sometimes glasses frames are bent, there are greasy prints on your lens, clouding your view into the virtual world. Those who are only slightly short-sighted and have no corneal curvature may possibly get by without their eyeglasses. Especially if a diopter adjustment lens is supported with a small dial. But this is not a solution for every spectacle wearer.
Currently, there are three VR platforms for Android that require different VR headsets. Google Cardboard is not only the name of Google’s cardboard glasses, but also the name of the platform for which there are many games in the Play Store. Daydream is a more elaborate new release, which also regulates the technical details on the smartphone. With the Gear VR, Samsung has added its own iron to the fire. Cardboard headsets work basically with most smartphones, Daydream requires the smartphone to be certified, and Samsung limits its platform only to the current high-end smartphones since the release of Galaxy S6.
If you don’t really know whether virtual reality is right for you, you should try the paper-based Cardboard headset. Numerous versions of these VR glasses are offered by different manufacturers, but the principle is always the same: the frame of the glasses is made from cardboard, and the VR-capable smartphone is simply clamped in front of the two lenses.
A strap to fasten the headset to your head is not always offered for all Cardboard versions, so you need to hold it with your hands. This is unwieldy in the truest sense of the word and, thus, more suitable for VR demos than for games. After all, the VR experience is satisfactory overall, despite the spartan equipment.
Daydream is Google’s more complex virtual reality platform: here, Google defines not only the VR headset, but also demands on the smartphone. Daydream also requires a controller. The platform is still very young and is supported mainly by Google’s Pixel smartphones.
Currently, the only style of VR headsets for Daydream come from the Google and goes by the name Daydream View. In our review of Daydream View, the headset did quite well: the comfort when wearing them and the quality of the platform are very good. There is still a lack of content, because Cardboard apps don't work with it.
Together with Oculus, Samsung has developed the Gear VR, its own VR headset, which have two special features: firstly, there’s an exclusive Oculus Store, where VR games and apps are available. Secondly, Gear VR only supports high-end smartphones from Samsung.
The latest version of the Gear VR supports Samsung smartphones with microUSB and USB Type-C, the latter being found only in the Note 7, which was removed from the market for safety reasons and, therefore, should not be used with the VR headset. It is unclear at the moment whether the upcoming Galaxy S8 will fit into the Gear VR.
Cardboard apps are only support for Gear VR via a workaround, access to the Oculus Store must be stopped manually. You don't require root access for these apps.
The Gear VR feels just fine and sits comfortably as it is quite light. If it is still too heavy, an additional strap can also be pulled over the head, whereby the weight is displaced.
What distinguishes the Gear VR from its competitor Zeiss are an integrated motion sensor, as well as two additional buttons on the right side of the VR glasses. Here, the volume can be controlled; there’s also a “back” button. This greatly simplifies the navigation of games and VR applications, since many games still require that manual inputs be made.
There is indeed a world of virtual reality outside of Android: the concept was embraced by Sony with Playstation VR and HTC with HTC Vive, both of which work on their own platform and software. The entire hype was started by Oculus, which was bought by Facebook, and its Rift headset.
The Oculus Rift headset costs around $599 and can be bought on the Oculus store and ships within two business days. The headset also comes with a sensor, a remote, cables, a Xbox One controler and the game Lucky's Tale. It shouldn’t be long before a good gaming PC is also available for presenting VR games.
Additionally, the VR headset from HTC, HTC Vive, which was released in April 2016, requires a powerful PC running a software called Steam. At around $900, the headset is significantly more expensive than the Oculus Rift.
Clearly cheaper are Sony’s virtual reality headset, PlayStation VR at $399.99, but you also need a PlayStation 4, which you can buy for $299.99. VR fans also need a suitable camera and, depending on the game, a PlayStation Move controller. Compared to buying a gaming PC, the PlayStation version is still cheaper. What’s more, the PlayStation solution has a big selection of games. More than 100 games are being developed for the PlayStation VR.
Have you fallen prey to VR fever or do you prefer to stay in the real world? Which VR headset do you use? Let us know in the comments.