There’s no doubt about it: virtual reality is here to stay. There’s a greater question to be asked about the merits of virtual reality versus the benefits of augmented reality, but that isn’t going to play out in 2016.
What we will see is the rise of virtual reality. And it’s also a serious consumer problem, because there are multiple horses to back.
In one corner we have the original: Oculus Rift. It won’t come with the touch controllers until later this year, and even though you’ll be able to pre-order the tech as of tomorrow we still don’t know how much the Rift will cost.
But it’s been around the longest and has the largest groundswell of support amongst developers. Oculus have also been giving seed funding to studios for a while, meaning the Rift is likely to have the most content off the bat — provided you have a PC capable enough of handling it.
In another corner lies Sony’s solution: Project Morpheus, which is now just called PlayStation VR. The hardware limitations are less of a concern here since it’s being developed for a console with one set of specifications. But those specs are also substantially lower than competing devices, we still don’t know precisely when PlayStation VR will launch, how much it will cost and there are only a handful of exclusives announced for this year. Some of those are cool — and having Battlezone as a timed exclusive for PlayStation VR is neat — but it’s nowhere near the level of content available for the Rift.
Valve and HTC are with SteamVR, more commonly known as the HTC Vive. Their tech was delayed to April this year due to a supposed significant development, something the companies are going to show off at CES. Like the Rift, the Vive has two 1080×1200 OLED screens for a full resolution of 2160×1200, compared to PlayStation VR’s single 1080p screen offering.
The Vive shares the Rift’s 90hz refresh rate and connects via HDMI and USB 3.0, but one key difference is the tracking system. According to HTC, their tech can come with a base station called the Lighthouse that emits structured light lasers within a space. The lasers, in conjunction with two front-facing cameras on the base station, can map and model your room, while also tracking any moving or static objects in the area.
The practicality of having 4.5mx4.5m free space in your gaming environment isn’t practical for many, however. The idea of walking around while your VR device is plugged into the back of a PC isn’t that appealing to me either — I’d rather sit down in a safe space and pretend to be Johnny Mnemonic or something. And the level of support for the Vive among developers is also a question mark at this stage, although it seems Valve are taking the right steps to catch up on that front.
So those are the main three (but not the only ones) we’ll see some time this year — and sooner, rather than later. What VR horse are you getting behind?