Virtual reality technology has made some significant advancement in the past few years.
It all started back in 2010 when a teenager called Palmer Luckey built a prototype VR headset that has since evolved into the Oculus Rift, a product that is synonymous with virtual reality today.
A few competitors have since cropped up, with the HTC Vive competing directly against the Rift.
For a newcomer, the hype surrounding VR can be overwhelming. VR has started to crop up on so many technology fronts that it can be difficult to understand what it’s all about.
If you’re in the same boat, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll be discussing on where to start in VR.
Big companies are all busy developing their VR products.
Samsung partnered up with Oculus to develop the Gear VR, a VR headset for the Galaxy smartphones. While Google has the Cardboard, a VR headset for the smartphone masses.
But what’s the difference? Are the Oculus Rift and Gear VR the same thing? What are their uses and which one should you try first?
The VR Headset
The most important hardware in a VR system is a virtual reality headset. These are designed to be worn on the head, completely enclosing a user’s field of vision.
Some of these headsets, like the Oculus Rift, incorporate their speakers. These headsets need the help of a computer to display content.
Different kinds of controllers are used in tandem with these headsets for interacting with the virtual environment.
Mobile and Powered Headsets
VR headsets can currently be used by three types of devices: personal computers, smartphones and game consoles.
Some famous examples of VR headsets for these would be the Oculus Rift (PCs), Gear VR (smartphones) and the PlayStation VR (game console). All of these VR headsets differ in the way they are operated.
Mobile headsets like the Gear VR and Google Cardboard should be thought of as a pair of individual lenses that come enclosed in a headset-shaped shell.
Because that’s all, there is to them. Mobile VR headsets need a smartphone to display content. So not only is the smartphone responsible for visual output, but it’s also doing the processing, which in VR is no easy job.
Due to this, the experience delivered by these mobile headsets is quite limited.
The graphical quality lacks detail, and the environments are quite sparse. However, these headsets tend to be quite cheap and thus accessible to a wide range of audiences.
Nearly everyone owns a smartphone these days, so a Google Cardboard purchase, at just $20, certainly won’t break the bank.
This might not be a full display of what VR is capable of, but it’s still a new experience that can be useful in introducing beginners to the world of VR.
On the other end of the scale, there are powered or tethered headsets like the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR.
These are tethered to a processing source. HTC Vive is a headset that’s been designed for personal computers while the PlayStation VR gets its input from the PlayStation 4 game console.
Tethered VR headsets differ crucially from their mobile counterparts in that they’re responsible for providing the display to the user.
Instead of lenses, they house small but high-resolution displays that output content. Because they’ll be seen from such a short distance, they’re able to envelop a person’s field of view entirely.
That’s how they’re able to deliver an immersive virtual reality experience.
Beginner’s Choice: Mobile VR headsets
Mobile VR headsets are incredibly cheap. The Google Cardboard will cost you just $20 and provide you with the same experience as virtually any other mobile VR headset. Because of this affordability, it’s easier to get into VR.
These headsets are also uncomplicated in their operation, and companies like Samsung have made the process incredibly easy. Just slot your smartphone into the mobile VR headset, and you’re inside a virtual environment.
Mobile VR is quite limited, but it still lets you look around a virtual environment. There are even a couple of genuinely good games like Sisters that are sure to deliver an experience you’ve never had before.
Mobile VR is also a good deal for people who don’t want to be tied to their computer or game console while they’re experiencing VR.
5 Mobile VR Apps and Games to Try:
- Land’s End: An exciting game that lets the user explore a virtual world.
- Minecraft: Gear VR: The favourite building game is now available for owners of the Samsung Gear VR. You’ll also need a recent Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
- Gunjack: A sci-fi shooter.
- Jaunt VR: This app has a great collection of videos specially made for VR.
- NextVR: This app allows the user to watch live sports and music in a virtual reality setting.
You can also check out our article on the most promising VR headsets today for a complete rundown.
PlayStation VR: Excellent Option for Quality, Affordable VR
If you’re interested in virtual reality and have a PlayStation VR lying around, check out the PlayStation VR headset.
It is one of the best VR headsets out there, competing indirectly with the popular Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
What makes the PlayStation VR so compelling is the ability to deliver a quality VR experience while also being affordable.
A clear advantage the PlayStation VR has over its PC-powered counterparts is that its primary focus is on gaming. There’s already an incredible library of games that’s ready to be played with the headset.
Because of the PlayStation’s popularity, there will always be something new to experience with the PlayStation VR as there are so many upcoming game titles that support the headset.
4 PlayStation VR games to try:
- EVE Valkyrie: A space exploration and war game made for VR
- Batman: Arkham VR: The Dark Knight experience in VR
- Driveclub VR: Put yourself in the cockpit of sports cars in this immersive racing game
- PlayStation VR Worlds: Collection of mini-games designed by Sony as introduction to the world of VR
- The Best VR Experience: Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive represent the best regarding what modern VR hardware can deliver.
These are PC-powered headsets that require mighty processing power to drive them. They feature high-resolution headset displays that immerse users with a 110-degree field of view.
The abilities of the Rift and Vive are quite evenly matched, so buying either one of these is an excellent choice. Bear in mind though that you’ll need a sturdy PC to power these headsets.
That is not a small investment, but if you want the best that VR has to offer, this is definitely the way to go.
The Rift and Vive also come with really intuitive controllers specially designed for virtual environments that can mimic your arm movements in the VR world as well.
Both of these headsets are quite expensive. The Rift costs $399 while the Vive costs $599.
The price difference is quite noticeable, and we’d recommend that you go with the Rift as it offers almost the same experience as the Vive.
Oculus Rift apps and games to try:
- Chronos: A role-playing game with an immersive world
- Minecraft VR: Building blocks in VR
- EVE: Valkyrie: Made for VR, this space exploration game is worth trying
- Apollo 11 VR Experience: Experience a pioneering moment in history
HTC Vive apps and games to try:
- Elite: Dangerous: A sci-fi game that feels great with VR
- Tilt Brush: Paint in a virtual setting
- Apollo 11 VR
What sort of VR hardware you should get is really up to you.
If you have a passing interest in VR, get the Google Cardboard to get a feel for what VR really is.
If you want cost-effective VR, the PlayStation VR is a great value.
If you want the best VR experience available, get either the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.
How to start in VR is a simple question if you have an idea about the investment you’re prepared to make in it and what type of virtual reality entertainment you want.