There are some excellent virtual reality headsets on the market, with plenty more in development. As with any emerging technology, the headsets are expensive, and you may need to upgrade your PC to get the best virtual reality experience available. Getting started with virtual reality headsets for computers is not too complicated.
You need to check your PC specification then choose the right headset for your expectations and your budget.
What Is a Virtual Reality Headset
Right now, virtual reality headsets come in two main types:
Virtual reality headsets for smartphones
Mostly based on Google Cardboard, headsets for the iPhone, or any other smartphones, are simple devices which use the display from our mobiles to deliver sound and immersive graphics. A long eye focus or gaze can give you some control in the applications, but not as much as the high tech virtual reality headsets for computers, like Oculus Rift.
Virtual reality headsets for computers
Headsets like the Oculus Rift have a stereoscopic head-mounted display which delivers separate images for each eye, and stereo sound. They have head motion tracking sensors which include gyroscopes, accelerometers and structured light systems.
Advanced headsets have eye-tracking sensors and gaming controllers. Virtual reality headsets for computers or games consoles like the Oculus Rift or PlayStation VR offer positional tracking. Movement of your eye, head, and even body can control your movement, and manage your virtual reality application.
Within a headset, for a computer, you can control your game or application, and switch from application to application, something not usually possible in a virtual reality headset for iPhone.
So how do virtual reality headsets for the smartphone differ to virtual reality headsets for the computer?
Virtual reality headsets for a smartphone, on the whole, don’t give any new technology other than what your phone can already provide. A few of the more advanced headsets can enhance your experience a little.
Mostly a virtual reality headset for a smartphone focuses your eyes on the two separate images your phone is now displaying to each eye. This enhancement provided your virtual experience, though not entirely immersive, it is very good.
Virtual reality headsets for computers deliver the image, control it, and react to their technology to your body and eye movement.
What Can You Do With a Virtual Reality Headset?
Game playing in virtual reality
Virtual reality gaming is the immersive experience anyone who loves a computer game or console has been waiting for. Almost real first-person shooters, scary as hell horror simulations and rollercoaster rides. Climbing simulators, which is virtual reality aren’t for the scared of heights or those who want to experience VR entertainment.
Visit the world and tour the universe
With absolutely stunning 360-content from every destination in the world available in virtual reality, why would we ever need to leave our homes? Okay, it’s not quite the same to visit the Grand Canyon in virtual reality as in real life, but it’s not far off.
And who can even afford or have the time to visit all places around the world? Virtual reality lets you tour all the places you ever wanted to see. It’s not just everywhere on earth either. There are many spaces, star and universe virtual reality applications available. Flying through space in virtual reality is a pretty impressive experience.
Learn in interactive 3D
From museum visits to art gallery tours. 3D learning is fulfilling and immersive, with the interactivity adding engagement to the experience which may well help with recall. You might even be lucky enough to access some advanced training simulations at work!
Build a virtual social life
You can experience any aspect of life with virtual reality. You can do that with friends from around the world, or even avatars. Chat in a bar with someone from thousands of miles away; the options will be endless with so much virtual reality development happening.
What Should You Consider Before Buying a VR Headset for a PC
Your PC needs to be high end to cope with virtual reality. The better your PC, the better the experience. As a minimum you will need:
- Processor: Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 (equivalent or better)
- Graphics card: NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 (equivalent or better)
- RAM: 4GB or more
- Video output: One HDMI 1.4 or one DisplayPort 1.2
- USB: One USB 2.0
- OS: Windows 7 or newer
The Best Virtual Reality Headsets For Computers
The best virtual reality headset for computers on the market today is judged to be the HTC Vive. It’s also the most expensive, feature and specification wise it does currently outweigh the Oculus Rift. However, Oculus is working hard to catch up.
The HTC Vive is an advanced headset, with plenty of accessories available in including two touch controllers, one for each hand. With a high specification PC, the performance from the HTC Vive outranks the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR. Its price does reflect this, at currently $799+, double the amount of PlayStation, and more expensive than Oculus Rift.
Many of the game developers are focusing on games for the Vive, ahead of Oculus Rift, though only just. Controllers for the HTC Vive also rate high compared to competitors.
The HTC Vive has movement tracking, a natural 110-degree field of visual and physical movement. It also has two wall-mounted stations which track your actions as well as a camera in the headset itself.
The HTC Vive is better for whole body movement and walking around while in virtual reality. It maps the room and gives thin blue lines within the game, so you don’t move out of your spectrum of movement in the real world – and fall over anything because you are not paying attention to the real world! You can customise your play area too.
The Oculus Rift does not provide the whole room experience the HTC Vive does, and it needs four USB ports to work correctly. It is cheaper than the HTC Vive and does offer an immersive 3D experience which is far far ahead of smartphone headsets.
There are conventional gamepads and Oculus Touch controllers available. The price of the Oculus Rift has recently fallen too, available on Amazon from $399+, though the controllers will cost more. The Oculus Rift has a single external sensor with another tracking the controllers.
You have less movement than the HTC Vive, your game space is smaller and usually play standing or sitting but not moving around. The cable tethers you to a PC and is not placed quite as well as the Vive. The image resolution and refresh rate are similar between the two headsets and your final results for both with depending on the specification of your PC.
Though there are differences and the HTC Vive is slightly more interactive, the Oculus Rift provides a fantastic, and entirely virtual enough, experience at a far better price.
Are You Ready to Start Your Virtual Reality Experience?
Prices are falling for virtual reality headsets, and the chances are new ones will hit the market very shortly. The ones on the market right now are excellent, and give a wonderful virtual reality experience, unlike any computer or console game or application you will have experienced to date.
Getting started with virtual reality for computers is easy no matter how savvy you are with technology. The technology is a plugin, setup and play. Applications are downloadable, and there are hundreds of indeed excellent titles to choose from!