Virtual Reality’s most immediately-recognizable component is the head-mounted display (HMD). Human beings are visual creatures, and display technology is often the single biggest difference between immersive Virtual Reality systems and traditional user interfaces. For instance, CAVE automatic virtual environments actively display virtual content onto room-sized screens. While they are fun for people in universities and big labs, consumer and industrial wearables are the wild west.
From the different headsets we've tested, the hardware is sound and the setup is simple, but position tracking isn't as accurate as tethered headsets with external sensors or the Rift S' new outward-facing tracking cameras. Also, the Windows Mixed Reality store doesn't have as many compelling VR experiences as the Rift and SteamVR stores, though you can use SteamVR games on Windows Mixed Reality headsets, again with some software wrestling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvCKXADeW34&t=1s
The HTC Vive has been one of the best VR HMDs on the market since its consumer release back in 2016. Manufactured by HTC, the Vive was the first VR HMD to support SteamVR. The Vive has been locked in fierce competition with the Oculus Rift since release, as both headsets aimed at the same top end of the VR enthusiast market. The Vive has proven itself a durable workhorse for enterprise solutions, while also delivering one of the best consumer VR experiences available. The Vive was first released back in 2016, and has gone through several iterations, with the addition of a wireless module. The Vive Pro came out in 2018 and the Vive Pro Eye and the HTC Vive Cosmos are both slated for release in the second half of 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS_-ZMcGnow&t=1s
In 1938, French avant-garde playwright Antonin Artaud described the illusory nature of characters and objects in the theatre as "la réalité virtuelle" in a collection of essays, Le Théâtre et son double. The English translation of this book, published in 1958 as The Theater and its Double, is the earliest published use of the term "virtual reality". The term "artificial reality", coined by Myron Krueger, has been in use since the 1970s. The term "virtual reality" was first used in a science fiction context in The Judas Mandala, a 1982 novel by Damien Broderick. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v55zEjX-lRE&t=1s
Everything that we know about our reality comes by way of our senses. In other words, our entire experience of reality is simply a combination of sensory information and our brains sense-making mechanisms for that information. It stands to reason then, that if you can present your senses with made-up information, your perception of reality would also change in response to it. You would be presented with a version of reality that isn’t really there, but from your perspective it would be perceived as real. Something we would refer to as a virtual reality. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/OSSC-HDMI-Converter-Kit-for-Retro-Game-Console-PlayStation-1-2-Xbox-one-360-Atari-Series/32969633292.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=huROjodx9Lk&t=1s
Details remain scarce on the Cosmos, which looks like it may attempt to bridge the quality gap between tethered and untethered headsets. The Cosmos will require tethering to another device, but it may not be limited to high-end gaming PCs. A VR headset that can tether to a smartphone? Interesting idea. The Vive Cosmos promises “crystal-clear graphics” thanks to a new pixel-packing process that aims to minimize screen door effect as much as possible. The HMD’s tracking system promises wide and accurate tracking, gesture controls, and a 6 Degrees of freedom (DOF) headset-and-controller setup. No word on price or release date for the Cosmos yet, but expect it sometime in the second half of 2019.
Bottom line, if you're looking for a VR experience that's closer to the Rift and the Vive without the big price tag and the setup, this is the one you want. The room tracking is fantastic, the controllers are the best we've used and while it won't play all of the top end Rift games, there's a good collection of games and experiences to try out already that will hopefully grow over the coming months.
The Oculus Go is the least expensive way to jump into virtual reality. At $200 it's pricier than mobile VR headsets, but unlike those headsets, you don't need a compatible (and usually expensive flagship) smartphone to use it. The $200 investment gets you right into a Gear VR-like virtual reality experience, complete with an intuitive controller. It makes some compromises for the price, like using a dated Snapdragon 821 processor and offering only 3DOF motion tracking, but it's still enough to try out Netflix on a virtual theater screen or play Settlers of Catan in VR. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOaG-ICXq0k&t=1s
Special input devices are required for interaction with the virtual world. These include the 3D mouse, the wired glove, motion controllers, and optical tracking sensors. Controllers typically use optical tracking systems (primarily infrared cameras) for location and navigation, so that the user can move freely without wiring. Some input devices provide the user with force feedback to the hands or other parts of the body, so that the human being can orientate himself in the three-dimensional world through haptics and sensor technology as a further sensory sensation and carry out realistic simulations. Additional haptic feedback can be obtained from omnidirectional treadmills (with which walking in virtual space is controlled by real walking movements) and vibration gloves and suits. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/100-OEM-NEW-Power-Supply-for-Xbox-360-Charger-For-xbox-Item-NO-PXB005-Internal-Wholesales/32297418013.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
Like the Go, you'll need the companion app on your smartphone to set the headset and the controllers up, but it doesn't take very long at all to do. Then you can start downloading apps, games and experiences from the app or through the headset and there's familiar titles here that have already popped up on the pricier Rift. So, Beat Saber, Thumper, Space Pirate Trainer, and Creed: Rise to Glory all make the cut. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8COaMKbNrX0&t=1s
After doing this over and over, revision after revision, eventually I have a final draft to export. In the export window, it is important that I ensure the “VR” is still enabled. What this does is put that specification in the metadata file so that sites like YouTube and Vimeo know to play it as 360° VR footage. Then I can upload it and ensure the playback is the way I want it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVUfnJipFh0&t=1s
^ Park, George D.; Allen, R. Wade; Fiorentino, Dary; Rosenthal, Theodore J.; Cook, Marcia L. (5 November 2016). "Simulator Sickness Scores According to Symptom Susceptibility, Age, and Gender for an Older Driver Assessment Study". Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. 50 (26): 2702–2706. doi:10.1177/154193120605002607.
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. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi-Pcc709EefbggMuGABWOA
Beyond video games, there are several other exciting ways to experience VR. College students can use VR technology to learn complex, dangerous tasks — like piloting an airplane or performing surgery — in a safe environment. Architects and engineers can incorporate VR technology to see their works rendered in 3D before a single brick is laid or a screw is turned. Real estate agents can give virtual tours of buildings for sale, even if the potential buyer is hundreds of miles away, using VR technology.
The more powerful Vive Pro offers a higher-resolution display, outward-facing cameras, and a handful of other enhanced features, but it isn't nearly as compelling as the regular Vive; it costs $300 more, and doesn't include the base stations and motion controllers needed to work, so you effectively need to already have a Vive or spend even more money to get set up with it. If that isn't enough power, the Vive Pro Eye adds built-in eye-tracking to the already advanced headset. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Insta360-ONE-360-Camera-Sport-Action-Video-Camera-VR-Panoramic-Camera-24MP-7K-Photos-4K-Videos/32878260145.html
In Virtual Reality, the computer uses similar sensors and math. However, rather than locating a real camera within a physical environment, the position of the user’s eyes are located within the simulated environment. If the user’s head turns, the graphics react accordingly. Rather than compositing virtual objects and a real scene, VR technology creates a convincing, interactive world for the user. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTFe95oFnDM&t=1s
This may seems like a lot of effort, and it is! What makes the development of virtual reality worthwhile? The potential entertainment value is clear. Immersive films and video games are good examples. The entertainment industry is after all a multi-billion dollar one and consumers are always keen on novelty. Virtual reality has many other, more serious, applications as well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coKs3KnIcao&t=1s
It's not without issues though. We've already discussed VR exercise equipment as a promising concept let down by being such an expensive, bulky and sweaty process. But if you really want to "get in" the game, and you have space, hopping into an Omni could be pretty neat. We've tried it since its early days at CES and it's been able to stick it out through the years, improving the base, harness and shoes to ensure the best possible experience. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Wonder-girl-250-Density-Remy-360-Lace-Frontal-Wig-With-Baby-Hair-Peruvian-Straight-Lace-Front/32850163634.html
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.youtube.com/watch?v=mwENYk66q6M&t=1s
To a degree, I’ve made it sound harder than it actually is since software has compensated for much of this, but these were some of the questions I was asking when I was first learning. I then started learning that some standard editing procedures could still be done. For example, I can still create image masks in 360°. So in truth, I still stood behind the camera the whole time along with others and gear and then masked myself out with a separate cut of footage showing the empty room. And for the motion graphics, (I use Adobe software) the software has built-in accommodations for editing and viewing in the 3D space so as to create accurate graphics. So in truth, once I learned, it wasn’t that hard, but boy is it time-consuming. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/New-item-360-angle-LED-filament-chips-130ln-70v-1-3watt-for-LED-bulb-corn-light/2001947101.html
The Fove setup is an 5.7-inch, 1440p display; a 100+ degree field of view; 70fps frame rate; and eye-tracking measured at 120fps. With the redesigned developer kit, gone are the big side panels and quite a lot of the heft of the last prototype design. The company promises the new model offers "dramatically reduced weight, size and overall wearability, as well as better production efficiency." You might have to wait a bit though – Fove hasn't confirmed plans for the consumer version just yet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCXGpEmFbOw&t=1s
This seems simple enough in theory (simple is relative), but in practice, shooting in 360° requires a whole new mindset. Typically, when shooting a video, I would just stand behind the camera. But with 360° video, I’d be in the shot no matter where I stand. How can I light my model with studio lights, if the studio lights would also always be in the shot? How do I capture audio? How do I do camera movements? These are all questions that have to have a solution. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wrcqqhn-unA&t=1s
It's not without issues though. We've already discussed VR exercise equipment as a promising concept let down by being such an expensive, bulky and sweaty process. But if you really want to "get in" the game, and you have space, hopping into an Omni could be pretty neat. We've tried it since its early days at CES and it's been able to stick it out through the years, improving the base, harness and shoes to ensure the best possible experience.
The newest breed of mobile headsets can also be considered "tethered," because instead of inserting your phone into the headset itself, you physically connect your phone with a USB-C cable. Qualcomm has been emphasizing the VR and augmented reality capabilities of its Snapdragon 855 processor, and is promoting a new ecosystem of XR viewers (including both AR and VR devices). These use the aforementioned USB-C connection to run all processing from a smartphone, while keeping the display technology built separately into the VR headset or AR glasses.
Wherever it is too dangerous, expensive or impractical to do something in reality, virtual reality is the answer. From trainee fighter pilots to medical applications trainee surgeons, virtual reality allows us to take virtual risks in order to gain real world experience. As the cost of virtual reality goes down and it becomes more mainstream you can expect more serious uses, such as education or productivity applications, to come to the fore. Virtual reality and its cousin augmented reality could substantively change the way we interface with our digital technologies. Continuing the trend of humanising our technology. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVQi3UNfKF0&t=1s
There are few worse feelings than putting on a VR headset and having someone else's sweat drip down your face. That's why, if you're likely to be sharing your headset with others, we'd recommend some sort of cover. The company VR Cover does exactly what it suggests, selling covers for the Rift, Vive, Gear VR and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. You can get a couple of machine-washable covers or, if you prefer, some cheaper disposable ones. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rdY6_AZWXk&t=1s
From the different headsets we've tested, the hardware is sound and the setup is simple, but position tracking isn't as accurate as tethered headsets with external sensors or the Rift S' new outward-facing tracking cameras. Also, the Windows Mixed Reality store doesn't have as many compelling VR experiences as the Rift and SteamVR stores, though you can use SteamVR games on Windows Mixed Reality headsets, again with some software wrestling.
The trade-off, besides the clunky cables, is the price. The least expensive tethered options are currently around $400. And that's before you address the processing issue; the Rift S and the Vive both need pretty powerful PCs to run, while the PS VR requires a PlayStation 4. If the cost isn't a deal breaker but the cables are, HTC offers a wireless adapter for the Vive, but it requires a desktop PC with a free PCIe slot to work. There are also third-party wireless adapters for the Rift, but we can't guarantee how well they work.
Although much more time and data intensive, I do foresee 360° and VR as being a growing trend of the future. I think the tools and software will continue to improve and the real world applications will start to become more obvious (i.e. behind-the-scenes where you could actually see everything, car cams so that every angle was captured, real estate videos, etc). I’m excited to continue learning about it and continue shooting on my 360° camera.
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.
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.aliexpress.com/item/GKK-Case-for-Huawei-Honor-Play-8X-Max-10-Lite-Case-360-Protection-3-in-1/32904184391.html
Tethered headsets like the Oculus Rift S, the HTC Vive, and the PlayStation VR are physically connected to PCs (or in the case of the PS VR, a PlayStation 4). The cable makes them a bit unwieldy, but putting all of the actual video processing in a box you don't need to directly strap to your face means your VR experience can be a lot more complex. The use of a dedicated display in the headset instead of your smartphone drastically improves image fidelity, and either external sensors or outward-facing cameras on the headset provide full 6DOF movement tracking.
While audio-visual information is most easily replicated in Virtual Reality, active research and development efforts are still being conducted into the other senses. Tactile inputs such as omnidirectional treadmills allow users to feel as though they’re actually walking through a simulation, rather than sitting in a chair or on a couch. Haptic technologies, also known as kinesthetic or touch feedback tech, have progressed from simple spinning-weight “rumble” motors to futuristic ultrasound technology. It is now possible to hear and feel true-to-life sensations along with visual VR experiences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPUDZPWhiiE&t=1s
Fast Five and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin put together this short film for Google's Spotlight Story program in 2016, and it's still one of the more ambitious live action VR shorts out there. Lin opts to use 360 cameras to put you in what feels like a big budget blockbuster, with an alien hellbent on chasing you through the subway. It's absolutely thrilling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqmBa8FPMx8&t=1s