The war of virtual reality 2016 is here, in-depth comparison of all options

This is the year that finally we will see the final takeoff segment of virtual reality. It is the technological trend of the moment, that to which all large and small are turning. Developments that different manufacturers have introduced in recent months make it clear: there will be choices for all and for all.

Given the magnitude of the phenomenon, it is good to do a review of the main alternatives and try to make a comparison between them. If you are preparing for joining the experience offered by virtual reality, here are the answers to your questions.

war of virtual reality

What does the virtual reality?

This technology has been trying to fulfill the promise we made as novels or science fiction movies but has been now when finally advances have allowed access to these solutions. Virtual reality combines high computing power with a series of optical techniques to simulate an immersive visual environment that makes him who takes feel as if it were real.

In these experiences there are other elements that can contribute to greater immersion: in most cases audio systems that try to simulate surround sound offered, and certain solutions are options such as tracking systems our head , gloves or specific commands virtual reality to interact with our hands, for example.

Do not confuse virtual reality with augmented reality, a technology in which visual information about our real environment overlaps. The best example of this type of solution we have in the HoloLens of Microsoft, glasses that are located in another area something different and in fact only be available for developers from the end of March.

Augmented reality devices, yes, often need external hardware. That means that glasses alone do not provide the total experience, but we will need a personal computer or mobile phone depending on the type of solution offered.

It is important to understand that solutions of each manufacturer have very specific requirements, so that if we take these solutions not only have to pay attention to the quality that can offer the device but the price of it and all additional elements that need to enjoy the experience of virtual reality. Let’s review the most important market options.

Google Cardboard

This is the easiest and cheapest way to start experimenting with what gives us virtual reality. Google engineers created a base model then others have adopted to create their own variations. Many of these glasses make use of cardboard that was used in the original model, but other more maintained (and expensive) also use plastic and other elements that try to make more glasses that are comfortable.

In this case, the only requirement is to have a smartphone in which to run applications and play video games or virtual reality. Google makers originally paid attention only to certain dimensions Android terminals but almost a year ago, that experience also moved to the devices based on iOS.

Although these glasses are usually adapted to different sizes of mobile, you should check whether your particular model can be “fit” well on these low-cost glasses to have a good experience. If that is true, we can start experimenting with numerous applications and games available on Google Play-indeed the Cardboard application as a gateway to more experiences both offered Android and iOS – but also with any video from YouTube, we can enjoy this mode of virtual reality that provides the official YouTube app. Not forgetting, and this is increasingly important, the growing number of videos on 360 ° that are also published on YouTube a year ago.

  • Advantages: First, the price: it is possible to get this kind of virtual reality glasses for just 10 dollars. Secondly, the fact that there is a huge amount of content to enjoy these experiences for the first time and at a really low price. Another strong point of this alternative is the fact that only need a Smartphone and in fact, the vast majority of devices on the market are perfectly compatible with these glasses and with those experiences.
  • Disadvantages: The principal is that the quality of experience is only decent. The Cardboard are so basic that we depend on our smartphone for everything, including our head tracking or motion detection. Some consider these glasses more as a way to “see” contained in virtual reality but not “plunge” in them. Other factors contribute to this care in other solutions such as latency, which does not help the experience comfortable. In fact, this kind of aspects is contributing to that after a few minutes feelings of dizziness or nausea may arise during sessions in virtual worlds.

Samsung Gear VR

Samsung engineers while working on a product that was essentially an improved version of what was proposed with Google Cardboard version, and the result was the VR Gear. At first glance, it may simply be a more elegant Cardboard but actually, its benefits go beyond that final finish.

It is true that the construction is much more solid and that the final aspect is not only more pleasing to the eye but also much more comfortable to use. However , the differences lie in the additional elements that Samsung added: better optics, better field of view (96° versus 90° of Cardboard), and better monitoring of our head thanks to a series of sensors specifically aimed at that homework.

The benefits continue in other important sections such as low persistence -less fast- motion blur and lower latency, which makes the immersion feeling generally is of higher quality and that there are also less likely to experience prolonged sickness potential with this device.

There is another element of interest: the presence of a number of controls on the right side of the glasses used to move through the menus in various applications and games with ease, which in the case of the Cardboard is simply starting at one point and keeping it for some time. Gear VR in such interactions thanks to those simple shortcuts is provided.

All this makes the VR Gear in a super vitamin version of Cardboard that closer the virtual reality experience that many seek quality for a price that is also not too high and that is around 100 dollars. The requirements are more special, however: we can only use these glasses with certain models of smartphones from Samsung. Specifically with Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 edge, Note5, S6 and S6 edge.

  • Advantages: There is such a cheap solution, but still more direct than alternatives where we started and need a powerful PC. The dedicated hardware developed by Samsung in collaboration with Oculus -guaranteeing that here things have tried to do it very well also score points, and certainly the support in the form of content not missing by Samsung and a strong partner behind: Facebook, whose founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and said that “virtual reality is the next social platform.”
  • Disadvantages: If only, need a smartphone to run, not about any smartphone. Having to have one of the latest models of high – end smartphones Samsung does not help much, but if you already have one of these terminals this point against automatically disappears, of course. In fact, this would be the ideal solution for owners of these terminals, which can decide better if they want to go a step further in their quest for the virtual reality experience more powerful alternative market.

PlayStation VR

We met as Morpheus Project, an initiative that was conceived from the success of PlayStation Move, and a few months ago we learned that the final name of this product from Sony would be PlayStation VR, or for short, pSVR.

The Japanese electronics giant still takes a few months to offer the final version of this product: it will in October 2016 for a price of around 500 dollars, but at that price we must add other 70 dollars for the PS Camera necessary to enjoy the experience of virtual reality. That camera works with the design of pSVR, which have a series of LED panels that allow light and track the movement of our head is as accurate as possible.

Logically this platform is part of Sony entertainment ecosystem: we will need a PlayStation 4 to play those games, but in this sense, investment is much lower than that which is necessary powerful PC in the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Console controllers can be leveraged for that dive, but also PS Move controls that developers can tap into their own experiences to take advantage of these devices. Sony seems to be posing a future with its own controls virtual reality, although so far no official confirmation.

In the tests, they performed our fellow Joystiq was clear that the virtual reality glasses pSVR are especially comfortable, although as in these solutions “high end” will be permanently connected to the console through a relatively long cable back to give some freedom of movement.

Since its launch still takes months to produce permanently there are still unknowns regarding the final quality of the experience, but certainly drafts are promising and show games that are also available on other platforms as ‘EVE: Valkyrie’. There will be many, but one of the stars will be the exclusive version of ‘Star Wars: Battlefront’ for this platform. Sony has promised to offer a catalog of 50 titles that will be available before the end of the year, and in the package for sale include ‘PlayStation VR Worlds’, a collection of five mini-games that will enjoy these experiences from the first moment.

The glasses also have another striking feature: they serve as an alternative to TV that we connect the console, because we can play all the games taking advantage of the current catalog screen 5.7 inches of the glasses, which will put our eyes to a vision in 16:9 formats of those games with resolution 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.

  • Advantages: The success of the PlayStation 4 is the guarantor of the potential interest of pSVR, which mainly attract attention by being significantly cheaper than their competitors are. The chance to enjoy the current catalog of games although in reality nothing virtually conventional format is another point of interest, but so far remains to be seen whether the final quality of the games and virtual reality experiences is comparable to your competitors offer higher level. There is a point very much in favor of PS4: being a closed ecosystem and work only with one type of device (PS4) is not theoretically being configuration problems or connection, and in this sense, the conflicts that could arise not appear before the multitude of configurations compatible PCs with Oculus and HTC.
  • Disadvantages: The screen resolution is lower than that offered by Oculus and HTC devices (both with 2,160 x 1,200) although its refresh rate is higher, 120Hz 90Hz compared to its competitors. The field of view is smaller (90° versus 110° of the Rift and lives). There are still doubts on other issues such as latency or persistence. All this adds up to the fact that the hardware of a PS4 is significantly lower than PCs that are necessary for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which suggests that a priori the quality of the experience in virtual reality will be lower.

Oculus Rift

It is impossible to say something new in virtual reality glasses that made sense back to virtual reality. This project born under the protection of Kickstarter was converted from its origin in the trigger of a trend we’ve taken five years to see crystallize, but the result has been to have no longer the promising proposal boys Oculus, but with many others who try to bring their bit in this market.

Anyway, the Oculus Rift is the benchmark in this segment in its own right. The glasses are made clear where should target those who seek the highest quality experiences in this area, but that also made that very soon the sacrifices to do is understand.

For starters, the Oculus Rift cost around 800 dollars, but that is only part of the investment, which we do not consider neither expensive nor cheap, but quite the opposite – because the additional hardware requirements are now a remarkable day. Unless you have recently updated your computer you may have to make, at least, one more than decent dedicated graphics adds another 300 dollars to the account – although in most cases may not even count with the right processor ensure a smooth experience.

If we have the hardware requirements, which become hard for all users at this level- achieve, yes, get to that today is the benchmark in the promise of virtual reality. Oculus also responsible for preparing the launch in the coming months Oculus Touch, the controls provide better interaction with our controls in these virtual worlds. Meanwhile, yes, Oculus include a command of the Xbox One to move through those environments without problems, although the experience may not be as “natural” or complete mood could be with that choice.

The supply of content for Oculus Rift output is also important, with a specific store called Oculus Share and an application for Windows that also serve as a store where you encounter applications and games. It is precisely this last section which has dearer promote from Oculus, and these days we have seen how they have used the GDC 2016 conference to announce the 30 games that will be available on March 28 for this platform.

Two of these titles will be included for the first buyers of this device: the promising ‘ EVE: Valkyrie ‘ and ‘Lucky’s Tale’ will be part of this promotional offer which then can add any title that initially appear. Later they will arrive others, of course, and one of the most anticipated is precisely Minecraft, which already surprised us in its version for HoloLens and could charge a new dimension in its edition to enjoy virtual reality.

  • Advantages: Hard not to be attracted to the device that started it all and longest maturing the presence founder Palmer Luckey team and two legends in the segment of video games and Michael John Carmack Abrash – does nothing but strengthen the commitment to a development that seems to be a reference for developers. The initial offering of content and video games is particularly striking and of course, is the fact that we will have a hardware that after several preprints reach the highly polished and ready to offer the best possible experience today in virtual reality environments end user.
  • Disadvantages: The emergence of a competitor in particular, which will be discussed below has made a striking limitation, has this experience offered by Oculus: that is designed to be played sitting. We will not move just because it does not help the fact that we use a command of a Xbox One and not more appropriate drivers for the immersion is greater. The hardware requirements make an economic investment is likely to be high-beyond the 600 dollars of reality glasses virtually, and as with the HTC Vive glasses are connected by wire (albeit relatively long) to PC: is not a wireless experience like that do offer Cardboard or Gear Vr, for example.

HTC Vive

Almost noiselessly, this is how appeared the HTC Vive, a reality glasses that arose with the support of Valve and distribution platform games. In fact, here it is important because the stakes have already been removed from the sleeve SteamVR, a special section that not only find native games to enjoy virtual reality experiences but also “adapt” traditional content – games life – for we can enjoy these virtual reality glasses.

The HTC Vive is direct competition to Oculus Rift and is also important and very striking additional elements. In HTC indicate that their experience is more complete, and rightly so: in addition to the virtual reality glasses two wireless controllers are included for the analogs hands to the claims jurisdiction with future Oculus Touch- and two base stations are especially interesting because they expand the virtual experience and enable us to enjoy not only sitting, but standing.

These base stations make use of a technology called Lighthouse that “mapped” room in which to put this part of the virtual stage and can move through it with this integrated virtual reality. Those who have tested the system (our partner Raul Alvarez did at CES 2016) state that the result is prodigious, but it remains to be seen whether such supplements are usable and practical in conventional homes where there are furniture and objects scattered in different locations.

In the case of Oculus Rift, we need a powerful PC to complete the whole experience of virtual reality. The minimum requirements are virtually identical to those of his rival and as in the previous case, the most important thing is to have a proper graphics card (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, AMD Radeon R9 290 or higher) other than 4 GB of RAM, an HDMI port DisplayPort 1.4 or 1.2 or higher.

If we fulfill all the requirements, we can have a complete solution in hardware and Oculus feature a suggestive catalog of games at launch, next April 5th. In GDC 2016 HTC and Valve announced the list of games that would be available, and as explained our fellow Joystiq here happen what in the world of consoles: some games will appear in “multiplatform” format, but others are unique to each ecosystem to least at launch. The HTC Vive includes two sets of series: ‘Job Simulator’ and ‘Fantastic Contraption’.

  • Advantages: If you want an experience immersive virtual reality especially, of course, guarantees puts HTC hardware with its accessories and the inclusion of controls and base stations. The partnership with Valve and Steam make exactly have much strength when distributing content, but that does not guarantee the exclusive catalog of virtual reality content will be greater: only that the platform is already mature and is now up to developers bet on one or the other. The ability to enjoy virtual reality experiences where we have no business to be sitting is also promising, although here remains to be seen what the result with different games.
  • Disadvantages: As in the case of the Rift, the price is high because investment also affects the PC to which we connect these glasses yes, there is a cable from glasses to PC- box but even more by the inclusion of additional hardware elements. Although HTC does not have many legends in its development, this collaboration with Valve should make things easier and in fact, the output catalog is promising, though perhaps not as much as the Oculus.

Although these are the five great alternatives on the market today there are other proposals that flood the market and the coming- that are current, but they have also added a host of accessories and peripherals that are designed to provide even more immersive experiences.

In view of the review, what is clear is that we have devices for all tastes and in all price ranges. Anyone can, therefore, experiment with virtual reality quickly and cheaply thanks to Google Cardboard, and from there decide whether to go further in a segment that actually still have a huge road ahead.

All these proposals have as we have seen its advantages and disadvantages, and now remains to see how it evolves one of the most promising segments of the future. Virtual reality is finally available to everyone, but we are confident that there is still much to see in this area.