If we’re talking Chinese Zodiac, 2016 is the year of the Monkey, and if we’re talking wearable technology, 2016 is the year of virtual and augmented reality headsets. If you’re new to the game, check out our old blog post which explains the similarities and differences between virtual and augmented reality.
Because this wearable tech is still in the introduction stage of the product life cycle, there are a lot of options to choose from. So, which headset should you pick? At 900lbs, we’ve found creative uses for many of them. We’ve compiled a list of the coolest, mind-blowing headsets so you can decide for yourself how you can enter a new reality.
Where Are We Now?
Virtual Reality Headsets
Google Cardboard – $16.99
Google Cardboard, at the low price of $16.99, styles itself as the every man’s virtual reality headset. All you need to do is fold the cardboard, insert your smartphone into the slot, and off you go into another dimension. On top of the low prices and tons of fun Cardboard designs, Google will soon be offering the Daydream platform. Daydream will allow users to bring the applications they already know and love into virtual reality, such as YouTube and Facebook, on top of hundreds of new exciting apps to come.
Samsung Gear VR – $99
The Samsung Gear VR works in a similar fashion to the Google Cardboard, you only need to slide your Galaxy phone into the headset. Just like Google Cardboard, the visuals delivered from these two systems will be grainier than some of the options further down this list, because you are essentially just looking at your phone screen really, really close up. Samsung also offers a 360 degree camera for as low as $25, so you can film, edit, and upload your own 360 content all for under $200.
Sony Playstation VR – $399
Sony Playstation VR connects to your Playstation for a whole new gaming experience. The headset is designed so you forget you are wearing it, and the 5.7 inch OLED display has a 120 Hz refresh rate, so you definitely are in no danger of any queasiness. The Playstation VR is likely the easiest way for consumers to enter the VR market, as it hooks directly up to the most popular gaming console. This option is supposed to release on October 13, 2016.
Oculus Rift – $599
Oculus Rift, developed by Palmer Luckey, funded by Kickstarter, and purchased by Facebook for $2 billion, is the technology that brought virtual reality back to the center stage of the gaming and technology world. The screen has a 2160×1200 resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate, so again, no motion sickness. There are Oculus Touch hand controllers in the making, which will throw users even further into the action.
HTC Vive – $799
The Vive, a collaboration between HTC and Valve, the makers of the popular PC gaming platform Steam, offers a more immersive experience. Thanks to motion tracking stations and a chaperone guidance system, users can actually walk around while wearing the headset, instead of just chilling on the sofa. The Vive has also a 90Hz refresh rate, so there’s no reason to worry about contracting motion sickness. There are also two wireless hand controllers available, with 24 sensors each, which makes interacting with the virtual world extremely easy.
Mixed Reality Headsets
Microsoft Hololens – $3000
The Microsoft Hololens allows the wearer to manipulate digital content and the real world simultaneously. Instead of completely immersing the user in a new world, the Hololens presents a mixed reality with interactive “holographic” (here’s why they aren’t actually holograms) images layered on top of reality. The Hololens also stands out from the others, because it is completely wireless. The tech is battery powered, and there is a fully operational Windows 10 system in the headset. Sensors on the headset lend to simple control of the device through the direction of your gaze, hand gestures, and voice activation.
Meta 2 – $949
The Meta 2, while not currently on the market yet, is a huge step up from its predecessor. It offers a 90 degree field of view, and a 2560×1440 display with positional tracking for your hands. These glasses are not wireless like the Hololens, but they do offer a larger field of view.
Just recently announced, the Intel Project Alloy aims to create a headset that works with merged reality. Similar to augmented reality, but instead of blending virtual objects into reality like the Hololens, Project Alloy mixes real objects into virtual reality. The headset will be cordless, and Intel plans to use an open source model with the hardware in the future, so any third-party can develop headsets of their own. This new take on headsets could change the virtual reality industry completely.
Fove VR, another company taking the technology even further, is creating a headset with super accurate eye tracking. The headset can read the movement of your eyes to an accuracy of 1 degree, which means while wearing this headset, characters in virtual reality will actually react and respond to your eye contact and head movements. Eye tracking could potentially increase the viability of other platforms rendering capability as well. Since we can track where the eye is looking the headset would only have to dedicate resources to a specific portion of the screen, rendering the rest of the screen at a lower resolution while maintaining visual fidelity in the user’s field of view.