Spring 2016 will bring with it a new era of VR (virtual reality) technology. Sparked by the Oculus Rift, VR has since become a hot topic in the tech industry, with many excited for what is being heralded as the next phase of home entertainment. And while there is plenty to celebrate, one should be cautious when considering a new tech product for purchase. Listed below are some of the most prominent names in VR technology along with some pertinent details to consider before committing to a purchase.
Probably the most expensive headset on the list, the Oculus Rift currently stands at $600, including a headset, mic, Xbox One controller, rift remote, sensor and the VR game Lucky’s Tale.
What makes the Oculus Rift a strong candidate for first generation purchase is the fact that it has had the longest development time. Originally announced in 2012, Oculus has had four years to build its technology, tweaking and refining the headset for optimal performance. In addition, the Rift’s long development cycle means that developers have had the most hands-on time with the hardware, which should lead to a stronger first generation experience for customers.
However, there is a big downside to the Oculus Rift — the PC requirements. Without getting into specifics, the necessary horsepower to run the Rift will discourage a lot of interested consumers. Because the Rift necessitates a more powerful PC than what the average family owns, most people interested in the Rift will have to either upgrade their PC or purchase an Oculus PC/Rift bundle priced at $1,500 on the Oculus website. Which means the initial $600 price tag for the headset is rather misleading!
The PlayStation VR
With no price point currently announced, it is hard to known the quality of the technology included in this headset, but considering Sony’s decision to announce their product for release at the same time as the Rift implies that they feel confident enough to stand against such a contender. Speculation puts the price around $250 to $350, which would be reasonable considering the price point for Sony’s other products (the PlayStation 4 sells for $350 and the Vita for around $200).
Currently, the two big draws for PlayStation VR is the assumed price and the Sony brand name. The fact that it simply links up to a PS4 means there are no hidden costs to consider at purchase. Assuming Sony bundles the headset with the VR wands that have been seen in demos, the consumer will already have the necessary console and controller to immediately begin playing without any concern over purchasing additional necessary peripherals.
The downside is the mystery surrounding the product, and the likelihood that the headset will not work as well as the PC-powered Rift. Considering the PS4 hardware pales in comparison to the PC, every sign points to the PlayStation VR being a lesser version of the Rift. However, the price and the knowledge that Sony is an established hardware company with years of experience in game publishing mean that the drawback might be miniscule, and inevitably worth it.
Lastly, consideration must be given to Google cardboard.
Yes, you read correctly, Google has released a Cardboard VR headset that works with smartphones to provide an inexpensive VR experience. Currently priced at $24 on the Knox Labs website, Google cardboard is far and away the cheapest VR available. Even when considering the necessity of a smartphone to use the product, the price is significantly lower than both Oculus and Sony.
However, as would be expected, the price does correlate with the quality of the product. While other VR systems will provide a true VR experience and unique content, the Google headset emulates VR with a standard smartphone display and only works with smartphone apps; meaning that this product may be more of a fad than a full on revolution in the way one consumes media.
So, there it is, a quick rundown of the big names in the VR business. While the prices differ greatly between options, one thing is clear: VR is going to make a splash in 2016. Whether it sinks or swims is another story!