Wednesday, 22 February 2017

How to Choose the Best Virtual Reality Headsets

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The newest gadget to hit the markets in the virtual reality technology are the ‘Virtual Reality Headsets’, which aim to completely immerse the user in a non-physical world.  Game makers, telephone apps, films and advertising companies are all working on the best ways to exploit this new advancement.  Yet it is all still very new, so how should you as a consumer know which headset to buy?  

The Best VR Headsets

 

The answer to that question depends on a number of different things, but most importantly, what are the important factors you should be looking at in any headset?  

The whole point of a Virtual Reality Headset, is to make the user believe they are in a simulated world.  This is achieved by creating a form of spatial immersion called presence, which requires a precise tracking of the user’s movements.  The pixels, resolution, latency and the refresh rate are all important factors for creating a smooth non-blurry image that will help you to submerge yourself into the scene and make the whole experience much more believable.   For a headset that creates a good ‘Presence’ I would suggest checking the following specifications before buying:

Field of view

The field of view is an important factor when choosing your headset.  The human eye has a wide peripheral view, up to 180o, without even moving and up to 270o with eye movement.  This and the amount of detail, depth and clarity are all things that the virtual reality headsets have to take into consideration, in order to fool your brain into believing that what you are seeing is real.  Headsets with a ‘Field of View’ lower than 180o are less likely to fool your brain and the gamer can suffer from a form of a tunnel vision phenomena.  However, a higher field of vision will not necessarily prevent this phenomena unless other conditions are also met, yet it does allow for a field of vision that is greater than a person’s normal peripheral vision, which will reduce the risks of it phenomenally.

Here is a brief comparison of the field of view on some of the more popular headsets: 

•StarVr  210o

•VR Union Claire 170o

•Wearlity Sky 150o.

•Oculus Rift 110o

•HTC Vive 110o 

•Project Morpheus 110o

Although, the ‘Field of View’ is not the only factor to take into consideration when buying a headset it is an essential component that will affect your virtual reality experience.  The higher the field of vision is, the better the experience and less chance you have of suffering from a form of the ‘Tunnel Vision’ phenomena.  Other factors of course are the structure of the headset and the type of lens being used. 

Resolution

The higher the resolution, the more clearly defined the images that you see through your headsets will be and the more clearly defined they are, the more believable they will be.  1080p is the minimum you should go for.  You could argue that by today's computer gaming standards that is low – a modern computer game now runs in 24-bit colour at 1600x1200 or 2560x1600 – but in virtual reality the screen is split with a separate 1080p screen for each eye.  So, for the new Virtual Reality Headsets 1080p is a good figure and will create, if not perfect images, good images.

Pixels

This generally refers to the amount of motion blurring that exists.  Therefore the fewer the better, I would suggest 3ms or less which translates to 4 pixels of motion blurring per pixels/second.

A high refresh rate. 

The refresh rate is the term for how quickly the images you are seeing are updated.  A higher refresh rate reduces the amount of lag you will experience and should increase the responsive experience you receive making for a more enjoyable gaming experience.  If possible you would like this to at least be in the region of 60 frames per second. 

Low latency 

The time between turning your head and seeing the image change before you is called latency, if the images don’t quite keep up with your line of vision it can feel unpleasant.  Therefore the lower the latency the more realistic your online experience will be.

Naturally not all headset specifications are the same and some of the above factors may be offset by other features that one headset offers compared to another.

Lastly, before making an informed choice on which headset to buy, we should look at the different headsets available.  Besides that already mentioned, what else are we looking for in a headset?  Comfortability, portability – light, heavy or wall mounted and of course, style.  Do you want a headset that connects to your pc for some of the more intense games being released or one that connects to your mobile phone for some of the interesting specially made virtual reality games that you can download from the app store?  So what are some of the big names in virtual reality headsets that you can choose from?  What are their specifications?

Oculus, Rift

The current virtual reality technology is all thanks to the creator of the Oculus and thanks to the backing of Face Book and a partnership with Samsung, still one of the biggest names in virtual reality.  Its latest version, ‘Crescent Bay’ has high resolution screens and a 360o head tracking LED’s.

The pro’s with this headset is the financial backing and software support it has behind it.

Technical Specifications

Field of View: 110o

Resolution    :  2160x1200 – 1080x1200 per eye

Refresh Rate:  90Hz

Platform         :  Microsoft Windows 10

Display Tech  :  OLED

Head Tracking:  6DOF (3-axis rotational and 3-axis positional tracking)

Game Pad        :  Xbox One Controller, Oculus Touch 

HTC Vive

Valve operates steam, and is due to release two pieces of hardware, Steam machines – a console like box to run PC games and the Vive headset.  The headset has two 1080 x 1200 screens, one of the highest resolution displays available.  The con with it however is that the sensors are wall mounted, which limits portability.  

The pros with this headset are the high resolution screens, the sensors, the Valve backing and the HTC manufacturing.

Technical Specifications

Field of View   : 110o

Resolution       :  2160x1200 – 1080x1200 per eye

Refresh Rate   :  90Hz

Platform          :  Steam Vr, Microsoft Windows

Display Tech  :  OLED

Head Tracking:  Lighthouse (2 base stations emitting pulsed lasers)

Game pad:  Steam Vr Controller

Sony Morpheus – PlayStation VR

These headsets have a 120 Hz refresh rate and are generally of a high quality.  Sony has some of the best game studios working on games for the headset and some of the demos have been outstanding.  The con with the headset however, is that they only work with the PS4.

The pro’s with this headset is that they are supported by Sony Studios and there are likely to be a lot of game releases for the PS4.

Technical Specifications

Field of View   : 100o

Resolution       :  1920x1080 – 960x1080 per eye

Refresh Rate   :  120Hz

Platform          :  PS4

Display Tech  :  OLED

Tracking:  PS4

Game pad:  PS4 Controller

Starbreeze’s Star Vr

Star Vr is the new contender in the Virtual Reality race.  They unveiled their new headset at the E3 complete with a Walking Dead game.  This headset has an amazing field of vision at a full 210o horizontally and 130o vertically.  As if the Field of Vision wasn’t enough, it also has two 5.5 inch Quad HD displays (2560x1440) and a Fresnel lens to increase a players VR experience.   

Technical Specifications

Field of View   :   210o

Resolution       :  5120x1440 – 2560x1440 per eye

Tracking:  Fiducial Markers on the headset and a combination of gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometers. 

Vr Union - Clare 22M

Made by a two year old start-up company based in Prague, these headsets much like the Star Vr have taken the technology of these headsets to another level.    The resolution of these headsets, still in production is 5120x1440 with a Fresnel Panoramic view.   

The other form of headsets available are those that connect to your mobile phone, they are generally much cheaper and can even be made for free, check out the Google Cardboard VR Headset online.  Or you can spend a little more on one of the following headsets.

Samsung Gear VR

Made using some of the same technology as the Oculus, the Gear VR is designed to be compatible with the Galaxy Note 4.  A newer edition the Innovator will be compatible with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.