Sunday, January 25, 2015

The best VR headsets

In the last few months we've seen an explosion of augmented reality and virtual reality headsets. While the technology has been bubbling under for decades, advances in the miniaturisation of components - derived from smartphones - have finally made the mass manufacture of both technologies feasible.
If you're unfamiliar with the terms, augmented reality (AR) refers to devices that project information into your view of the real world. With gaming headsets this could mean blurring the lines between your real surroundings and a digital realm.
Virtual reality (VR) is a more immersive experience in which your head movements are tracked in a three dimensional world, making it suited to games and even movies.
But what are the best VR headsets? We've created the definitive list of the most gob-smackingly awesome devices just waiting to be strapped to your bonce.

Samsung Gear VR

Over in Berlin at IFA 2014 Samsung revealed its venture into the world of virtual reality. The Samsung Gear VR is an Oculus Rift powered device that involves not a PC to plug into but a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 acting as processor and display.
The 2560 x 1440 QHD Super AMOLED display mobile device simply slots in, in front of the lenses, into a Micro USB dock. What you get is a split VR resolution of 1280 x 1440 for each eye. That’s with a 60Hz refresh rate and a 96 degree field of view. There’ll be over 100 apps to go with it at launch and some Bluetooth compatible headsets to complete the total immersion entertainment.

Oculus Rift

Of course, Oculus Rift is the virtual reality headset that started the current trend. Developed by 21-year-old engineer Palmer Luckey and funded via Kickstarter, the Rift plugs into your computer's DVI and USB ports and tracks your head movements to provide 3D imagery to its stereo screens.
It's captured the imagination of game developers around the world, and it can even be used to watch films on a giant – albeit virtual – screen.
Make sure you check out or round up of the best games for Oculus Rift.

Sony Project Morpheus

However, Oculus VR's $2 billion acquisition by Facebook has sparked controversy, so if you're really keen to get into the world of virtual reality you may wish to consider the alternatives. Chief among these is Sony's Project Morpheus, which provides virtual reality immersion for the company's PlayStation 4 console.
Compatible titles are thin on the ground at the moment, but it's a list that's sure to grow once the headset is released.

Carl Zeiss VR One

The big news here is, like the Samsung Gear VR, the hardware power for this headset comes from your smartphone. Unlike Sammy’s effort, however, you’re not tied to just one mobile with the Zeiss VR One; it will play ball with any iOS or Android handset between 4.7 and 5.2 inches.
Launching in December with two basic apps; one a media player for the likes of pictures and YouTube videos, and the second an AR app for augmented experiences, its makers will be hoping that its open source Unity3D SDK (iOS and Android) will provide more.

Avegant Glyph

The majority of these headsets are large and heavy, but Avegant's Glyph is far sleeker and smaller. Its svelte size is due to its display technology: rather than using conventional smartphone-like screens to present imagery, it uses an array of micro mirrors to reflect an image directly into your retina.
It may sound like the stuff of techno-nightmares, but it's said to alleviate the slight nausea that comes with conventional virtual reality headsets, and your peripheral vision is unaffected so you can still see your keyboard.
$499, (early 2015)

Google Cardboard

Not to be outdone, Google has announced its Cardboard virtual reality headset. Popping a smartphone into a cardboard container and then strapping it to your head may sound like a joke, but it actually works and it could become a low-cost way to experience virtual reality.
After all, your smartphone contains all the necessary gyroscopic sensors and positioning systems to accurately track your head movements. Related is Durovis' Dive, which is essentially the same thing made of higher quality and more sweat-resistant materials.

Archos VR Headset

Essentially Google cardboard but, er, not cardboard, Archos' attempt at bringing mobile VR experiences to the masses is a sub-£25 device that was announced in October.
The Archos VR Headset works with any smartphone with a screen sized 6-inches or less, and the French company claims it will work with iOS, Android and Windows Phone - although you'll be hard pressed finding any developers knocking out VR apps and demos for Microsoft's mobile platform.


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