Current state of affairs in virtual reality

When Oculus Rift first appeared it was just a niche product directed towards a narrow audience of tech enthusiasts, but then Facebook stepped up, bought Oculus and suddenly virtual reality became a huge topic in the tech world. VR was not anymore just a fancy way of playing video games, Facebook stated that VR will become much more than that, they have a vision of connecting people from around the world with VR, bringing social networking to a completely new level, never seen before. Soon after that, we had Sony revealing their own VR kit, Morpheus, now called PlayStation VR. After that, the whole VR scene just sort of exploded, with products coming from HTC, Google, Samsung and many more. And then 2016 came, a critical year for VR, year that will see releases of almost every major VR kit (some of them are already available, like Samsung’s Gear VR), so this is the perfect time to check the current state of affairs in this exciting branch of the tech tree.GearVRPhoto-small

Image courtesy of Oculus

 

Samsung Gear VR (made in partnership with Oculus) is available for some time with a $99 price tag, and even has some games and interactive demos made for it, you just need one of the Samsung’s smartphones in order to use it (Currently supported models are: Note 5, S6, S6 Edge, and S6 edge+).

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Image courtesy of Oculus

Oculus Rift is just around the corner, with the release window of Q1 2016 and it’s price is $600. You can already preorder it, and it promises much more than “usual” VR experience that included games and interactive apps. Oculus and its parent company Facebook have plans of connecting the whole world with the Rift, but that plan is still in its early stages, so in the foreseeable future, you won’t have the chance to talk with someone face to face in virtual reality.

vive-headset

Image courtesy of HTC

HTC Vive appeared all of a sudden, it is made in the cooperation with Valve, one of the biggest game development studios and owners of Steam. They want to bring VR experience on all platforms and are already announced that new Unity engine will have native support for their VR kit, enabling teams to already design new games that will fully support Steam VR. And there are quite a few of them that’ll see the light of day before the end of 2016. It differs from the pack because it is the only kit that’ll offer room wide experience. In other words, you will not just sitting at a desk and turning your head, you’ll be able to explore VR worlds by walking across the room. That feature (along with the wireless controller that will also be included with the kit) will probably make Vive the most expensive VR kit on the market. Rumors say that it will cost more than $1000, almost double the price of Oculus Rift.

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Image courtesy of Sony

Sony PlayStation VR (formerly known as project Morpheus) is shaping up to be the most user-friendly product of the bunch. It’s easy to use, needs a PlayStation 4 to function, and Sony already has some of their internal game studios working on the games for it. It will be released sometime in the first half of 2016, the latest rumor putting the release date for April 2016, and the price mark at around $400-500.

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Google Cardboard is the cheap ticket to a VR world. You can order it for $20 or build it yourself. It is best using it with a smartphone or better to say fablet, which has a 6 inch (or larger) screen and it offers a similar experience as Gear VR.

 

Bear in mind that aside from churning the money for VR kit, in most cases you’ll have to pay additional expenses. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are demanding pretty powerful PC in order to use them. Minimum requirements for Oculus Rift are 8 gigs or more Ram, Intel i5-4590 or greater and an NVidia GTX 970/AMD 290. As you can see, Requirements are pretty beefy and most people will probably have to buy some components in order to make it work as it should, making the final price way over $600. For PlayStation VR, you’ll need just PlayStation 4, and for Samsung Gear and Google cardboard you need to have one of the supported models.

 

We covered products from the biggest players in VR arena right now, and by the end of the year, we’ll probably have some information about VR popularity and its future. VR has potential, but as another revived technology (it was present since 1950’s in one form or another) it could end up being just another seasonal fashion trend in tech world, like 3D, until something new gets invented (or revived) and the hype machine starts again.

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