What You Should Know About Each Virtual Reality Headset

Sunday, 26 February 2017 - 5:25PM
Virtual Reality
Sunday, 26 February 2017 - 5:25PM
What You Should Know About Each Virtual Reality Headset
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Marco Verch/Flickr
Have you tried out virtual reality yet? As the new technology continues to grow in popularity, more and more people have embraced VR as an exciting new medium for playing games, 3D sketching, and interacting with friends and family in a digital space.

But for many, this emerging technology still feels like a confusing, challenging concept - not least because there are so many different VR headsets available, all of which offer a slightly different experience. If you're eager to learn more about VR but not sure where to start, here's a breakdown of some of the most popular headsets, and what each one provides its users:

Oculus Rift

The headset which kicked off the age of VR remains the most popular, recognizable brand on the market. Originally funded by Kickstarter and later bought by Facebook, this headset is a great all-rounder with a diverse range of options for players.

Because the Oculus Rift runs on Windows, it's flexible, with a lot of different software and hardware choices to support the experience. You can use any controller you like, and the device will run pretty much any program you need it to, so long as it's isn't locked as an exclusive to another system.

The only downside is that with versatility comes complexity. You'll need a really powerful computer to get the most out of this device, and it can be challenging to find the perfect equipment, settings, and software for your personal experience.

HTC Vive

Another PC device, the Vive is most notable for two things: its support from games developer Valve (and their vast Steam library of games), and its heavy reliance on motion controls. Unlike the Oculus Rift, this headset is designed to be used in an open space where the user can walk around, analyzing things from all angles.

This is helpful in avoiding motion sickness, but will require some dedicated real estate within your living room. It's a trade-off that many consider worth it for exclusive games, like those set in the Portal universe, but it might not be ideal if you don't already have an extensive Steam collection.

PlayStation VR

If you already own a PlayStation 4 Pro, this headset is going to be the most convenient by far. The PS4's dedicated VR platform is straightforward and easy to use, and as an added bonus, it comes with some incredible exclusive video games, such as Robinson: The Journey by celebrated studio Crytek.

This device is solely for gaming, though, and has limited other uses. It's also designed to be played while stationary, and doesn't feature motion controls - this may lead to more nausea than the HTC Vive as a result.

Samsung Gear

One of the earliest VR devices to make it to market, the Gear lacks a lot of the key features that other VR headsets now possess. It's cheap, and the difference is keenly felt by anyone who's experienced more advanced VR technology. What's more, there aren't as many complex, detailed VR experiences designed for this platform, so users may find it lacking compared to the wealth of high quality software available for the Oculus Rift.

That said, not everybody wants to drop over a thousand dollars on an unproven virtual reality technology, and the Gear is great for an enthusiast on a budget who just wants to give VR a go without breaking the bank.

Google Cardboard

There's nothing fancy at all about Google Cardboard - its bargain basement approach leaves a lot to be desired compared with far more sophisticated, immersive VR systems. That said, these devices are by far the most popular form of VR at present, not least because they're so cheap, and work with smartphone technology that you probably already own.

Google Cardboard has an important place in modern VR technology - it's a great starting point if you're curious about virtual reality in general, and will help you to know whether this is something you'd be happy to spend your money on. It's worth giving this platform a try before shelling out the money for a PlayStation VR or an HTV Vive.

Intel Alloy

One of the newer devices in development at the moment, Intel's Alloy isn't yet on the market, but it has a lot of people talking eagerly at the prospects it holds. While the Alloy does deliver traditional virtual reality, its more interesting feature is merged reality, which adds interactive virtual elements to your view of the real world.

This solves a lot of VR's problems, such as motion sickness, by involving your own environment in the software and allowing you to navigate the world around you with assistance from the technology. It remains to be seen how well this will work, but at the moment, the Alloy is generating enough buzz to be an exciting prospect for fans of VR.
Virtual Reality