It is time to stop thinking about Virtual Reality as future technology. It’s already here. At the low end you probably have a way to start enjoying it in your pocket right now, and at the high end the prices are set and pre-orders are being taken.
Nowhere was this clearer than at this year’s Mobile World Congress. The conference was dominated by this exciting new trend. Almost every hardware manufacturer had something to showcase featuring VR, while software companies were keen to demonstrate how they intended to use the technology beyond simple entertainment.
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HTC Vive and SteamVR
Before the show even began HTC was making waves as it announced the price of its VR solution, the HTC Vive. With a price set at $799 the Vive certainly registers on the high end of what consumers could be expecting to spend on virtual reality. That said, if you have the money and a PC powerful enough to run it, it is certainly looks like one of the best options.
The head set provides a 110° field of view, with 32 sensors to track your head movement, and a resolution of 2160 x 1200 to ensure images remain crisp when pressed up to your face. It also includes two wall mounted sensors to scan your room and track your movement within it, and two controllers, one for each hand. In combination these allow you to move around a 3D space without colliding with anything in the real world while also letting you reach out and touch things in its virtual world.
Samsung’s Oculus Rift
Having been purchased by Facebook, Samsung’s Oculus Rift if probably the most famous VR tech. Much like the HTC Vive this bit of kit demands a powerful PC to be enjoyed, but it is justified because strapping on its googles the effect is undeniably powerful as it transports you into an immersive digital 3D world.
Boasting a similar set of features and specs to the main competition, the Rift has the distinct advantage of being $200 cheaper at “just” $599. That said it is currently lacking bespoke controllers, instead simply coming packaged with an Xbox One pad.
Samsung Gear VR
If paying upwards of $599 for a headset – plus the price of a powerful PC – seems a little too expensive to get on the VR bandwagon, then Samsung do have another alternative: Gear VR. These headset-shells let you mount any of the company’s recent phone models into their fixtures. This then enables you to have a more mobile VR experience that utilizes the phone’s accelerometer and camera to track movement. It also supports the Samsung Galaxy s7, with some retailers including the headset as a pre-order bonus for the phone.
Samsung Gear 360 is another part of this series of products, a camera that lets you shoot videos and stills in a full 360.
Qualcomm had their own VR solution at the show also, in the form of their powerful SnapDragon 820 processor. True this is just another mobile solution, but watching video rendered on this chip certainly looked impressive – particularly as you tracked the images moving around you.
Not to be left out, Intel had their own VR tech in the form of the Intel Real Sense Smartphone Developer Kit. This was a little less visually impressive, but this phone technology utilized outward facing sensors, cameras, and an accelerometer to track your movement in the world. Take a step forward in the real world, and you also move forward in the digital world. Even more impressive, the camera was able to detect flesh tones and map them into the world, allowing you to interact with the digital environment around you without the need of any peripherals.
Virtual reality has definitely arrived. It is great for games and entertainment, which is how many of us are going to use it – but its possible applications in healthcare, therapy, real estate, architecture, social networks, and virtual malls ensure that this trend is be here to stay.
We are excited to see what the future brings.
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