The Oculus Touch controllers have made a world of difference since their arrival. Compared to the other headsets' controllers, they're our favourite – they conform to your hand and allow for some finger recognition, like a thumbs-up. Not just that, but when it comes to games Oculus has come on leaps and bounds. That's been largely helped by some developer cash injections from Facebook, giving us quality, polished titles like Lone Echo and Robo Recall. Room-scale support has been added too, though you'll need to purchase at least one additional sensor to get it to Vive-level tracking, and even then the Vive tracking experience is a little better in our experience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izRZxhqfk0Y&t=1s
Oculus has both tethered and standalone headsets from the Go, to the Quest, to the Rift S. HTC has the Steam-friendly Vive and the developer-focused Vive Pro. Sony has the PS 4-focused PlayStation VR (that will apparently work with the PlayStation 5 if and when that system comes out), and Microsoft is supporting its Windows Mixed Reality platform with a variety of headsets from different manufacturers. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Gyros-360-Degree-Metal-Finger-Ring-Holder-for-IPhone-7-6-Samsung-Tablet-Hand-Spinner-Mobile/32816976160.html
All this sounds fantastic and amazing, which it is, but it comes with its fair share of challenges when creating this content. Before I jump into those, take a look at the final product I created for the client, so you have a better understanding of what I’m talking about as I go (Note: For best experience, view on phone or tablet. If you’re on a computer, you can still view it just fine, just click and drag around the screen to change your view):
Virtual Reality is a fascinating way to travel using nothing more than the power of technology. With a headset and motion tracking, VR lets you look around a virtual space as if you're actually there. It's also been a promising technology for decades that's never truly caught on. That's constantly changing with the current wave of VR products, especially as the biggest names in the industry are starting to really hone and tweak their headsets. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/FW1S-USB-2-0-Webcam-12-0-Mega-Pixel-HD-Camera-Webcam-360-Degree-MIC-Clip/32659656232.html
There’s a second class of Virtual Reality HMD that is really just a shell with special lens that pairs with a smartphone to deliver a VR experience. These devices can sell for almost nothing (and are often given away free), and deliver a scaled down VR experience that still approaches the immersive experiences generated by much-more expensive hardware. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYz-fDX1bdM&t=1s
While they can offer a taste of VR, mobile headsets don't provide the full experience. They tend to offer three-degrees-of-freedom (3DOF) motion tracking, following your direction but not your position. They also only come with one motion controller, which is also 3DOF-only. You don't get the same immersiveness you do with six-degrees-of-freedom (6DOF) motion tracking and dual motion controllers, which might be why Google and Samsung have been largely quiet lately about their mobile headsets. The Nintendo Labo VR Kit is its own unique case, but it's more of a novelty for Switch owners. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYemnKEKx0c&t=1s
So far, Apple has been very cool on VR, but that's slowly starting to change, at least from a software development side. OS X High Sierra enables VR development on three major VR software platforms: Steam, Unity, and Unreal. It also uses Apple's Metal 2 framework, which the company says provides the performance necessary for VR. No plans for any Apple-branded VR headset have been announced—we'll much more likely see Rift or Vive compatibility added to Macs. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Sovawin-VR-360-Degree-Camera-4K-Wifi-Video-Mini-Panoramic-2448-2448-HD-Panorama-Action-Waterproof/32791476785.html
But the competition is closer than ever. Vive is also excellent (and still offers the best room scale), while the Sony PlayStation VR is a big seller thanks to its significantly lower price and the ubiquity of PlayStation 4 consoles ready to run it. There are now better standalone VR headsets too if you want a hassle-free route to the immersive realms. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1udaCG1JiWU&t=1s
In 2010, Palmer Luckey designed the first prototype of the Oculus Rift. This prototype, built on a shell of another virtual reality headset, was only capable of rotational tracking. However, it boasted a 90-degree field of vision that was previously unseen in the consumer market at the time. Distortion issues arising from the lens used to create the field of vision were corrected for by software written by John Carmack for a version of Doom 3. This initial design would later serve as a basis from which the later designs came. In 2012, the Rift is presented for the first time at the E3 gaming trade show by Carmack. In 2014, Facebook purchased Oculus VR for what at the time was stated as $2 billion but later revealed that the more accurate figure was $3 billion. This purchase occurred after the first development kits ordered through Oculus' 2012 Kickstarter had shipped in 2013 but before the shipping of their second development kits in 2014. Zenimax, Carmack's former employer, sued Oculus and Facebook for taking company secrets to Facebook; the verdict was in favour of Zenimax, settled out of court later. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/GKK-Case-for-Xiaomi-Redmi-Note-5-Plus-Mi-8-Lite-9-SE-Note-7-Pro/32857636521.html
Standalone headsets were at first a useful novelty that offered a taste of VR without an investment into a gaming PC or a flagship phone. The Oculus Go and the Lenovo Mirage Solo are both capable headsets that work well on their own, but they have the same limited controls as mobile headsets. The recently released Oculus Quest, however, has really sold us on this category. The Quest uses similar outward-facing cameras to the new Rift S to provide 6DOF motion tracking, and uses the same Oculus Touch motion controls. Combined with a faster Snapdragon 835 processor compared with the Oculus Go's Snapdragon 821, the Quest offers a much more compelling and immersive VR experience, all without the unwieldy cable or PC requirement of the Rift S. We hope to see more standalone 6DOF, dual motion controller headsets in the future, like the upcoming HTC Vive Focus Plus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPg89qonG0E&t=1s
Will Greenwald has been covering consumer technology for a decade, and has served on the editorial staffs of CNET.com, Sound & Vision, and Maximum PC. His work and analysis has been seen in GamePro, Tested.com, Geek.com, and several other publications. He currently covers consumer electronics in the PC Labs as the in-house home entertainment expert... See Full Bio https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuM0Z4a7kMs&t=1s
Google and Samsung still offer phone-based VR headsets in the form of the Daydream View and the Gear VR, and even Nintendo has gotten into the game with its Labo VR Kit for the Nintendo Switch. However, these shell-like headsets, which require a phone or some other device physically inserted into them, feel like novelties next to more powerful headsets that can provide more immersive experiences.
In 2013, Valve Corporation discovered and freely shared the breakthrough of low-persistence displays which make lag-free and smear-free display of VR content possible. This was adopted by Oculus and was used in all their future headsets. In early 2014, Valve showed off their SteamSight prototype, the precursor to both consumer headsets released in 2016. It shared major features with the consumer headsets including separate 1K displays per eye, low persistence, positional tracking over a large area, and fresnel lenses. HTC and Valve announced the virtual reality headset HTC Vive and controllers in 2015. The set included tracking technology called Lighthouse, which utilized wall-mounted "base stations" for positional tracking using infrared light. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LD4ryByjVyo&t=1s
The big upside to Oculus is that its ecosystem is pretty robust. There are over 1,000 apps and games available to you for the Go. Now you're not going to get some of the more high-end experiences, like Robo Recall, but you're not going to be hurting for content. Oculus' home screen is also probably the best in VR, even on the standalone Go. Finally, you're going to get about 1.5 hours of battery life if you're gaming and 2.5 hours if you're watching videos. The basic version comes with 32GB of storage, you camp bump up to 64GB of storage for a cool £50 more. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/BESDER-Mini-360-Degree-VR-Panoramic-Camera-IP-Wifi-Indoor-Widest-Viewing-Angle-Two-Way-Audio/32841853156.html
You already know how satisfying it is to watch a complex set of dominoes systematically collapse. That sound, that feeling of watching something crumble. But what if someone set up dominoes around you, and then you could watch them slowly fall around you? That's what this video is, and it may be one of the more satisfying uses of 360 photography yet. Bonus points for reversing the dominoes at the end. Alternatively, check out GoPro's video surrounding you with soda and Mentos explosions.
HTC has branched out beyond tethered headsets with the standalone Vive Focus series. Originally launched only in China, the Vive Focus came to North America late last year, and its 6DOF follow-up, the Vive Focus Plus, will see worldwide release later this year. Both are completely self-contained VR headsets similar to the Lenovo Mirage Solo, capable of full motion tracking and room mapping. The Vive Focus headsets are currently being aimed at the enterprise market rather than consumers, emphasizing their ability to offer virtual training and conferencing in a business context. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Anker-SoundCore-Dual-Driver-Portable-Wireless-Bluetooth-Speaker-with-24-Hour-Playtime-66-Foot-Bluetooth-Range/32718503055.html
Microsoft HoloLens is shaping up to be another formidable competitor in the HMD market. Unlike VR tech, Microsoft based their display on holographic technology. The original Hololens was more proof of concept than consumer device, and the recently announced Hololens 2 is again eschewing the public in favor of enterprise/government uses. The Hololens 2 will feature upgraded visuals, including a much-expanded field of view — music to fans of the original device, who settled on the limited FOV as the main drawback of the device.
When it comes to moving your feet, most peripherals are stuck in traditional gaming mode: You jump with 'A' or use a joystick to walk, ignoring immersive motion from the waist down. Believing VR should have some more mobility options, the folks at 3DRudder created a VR footpad that allows the user to control all movement – horizontal, vertical and turning – using only their feet. (No word on realistically jerky jumping as of yet, though.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Scd9baRjf8&t=1s
If the last applies to you, you're likely a computer scientist or engineer, many of whom now avoid the words virtual reality even while they work on technologies most of us associate with VR. Today, you're more likely to hear someone use the words virtual environment (VE) to refer to what the public knows as virtual reality. We'll use the terms interchangeably in this article. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Insta360-Pro-8K-360-VR-Video-Camera-4K-100fps-Slow-Motion-Anti-shake-Panoramic-Camera-VR/32832297122.html
By 1994, Sega released the Sega VR-1 motion simulator arcade attraction, in SegaWorld amusement arcades. It was able to track head movement and featured 3D polygon graphics in stereoscopic 3D, powered by the Sega Model 1 arcade system board. Apple released QuickTime VR, which, despite using the term "VR", was unable to represent virtual reality, and instead displayed 360 photographic panoramas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30l5LO7gC6A&t=1s
It really is that simple. You do need the companion app on your phone first, which will make you log in. You'll also have to grant location access and pair the Go to your Wi-Fi. Once you've done that, and inserted and paired your controller, you're all good to go. There will be a little video that tells you a bit about safety, but that's it. That's how simple it is to set up. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/VR-360-Camera-HD-Video-Panoramic-View-190-degree-Wide-Angle-Dual-Fisheye-Lens-Panorama-360/32824775874.html
HTC's Vive is a comprehensive package that includes a headset, two motion controllers, and two base stations for defining a "whole-room" VR area. It's technically impressive, and can track your movements in a 10-foot cube instead of just from your seat. It also includes a set of motion controllers more advanced than the PlayStation Move. PC-tethered VR systems like the Vive need plenty of power, with HTC recommending at least an Intel Core i5-4590 CPU and a GeForce GTX 970 GPU. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZ0fKW5PttM&t=1s