Virtual Reality (VR) , though invented years ago, is something that has taken a long time to go ‘mainstream’. Even now most people have very little knowledge about what it actually is, and what it is used for. Most technologies take a long time to develop, and this is especially true of VR. VR systems were first released in the early 90’s, but due to technological limitations at the time and a high cost, none of them were ever successful for home use. They were cool in theory, but the end result was clunky and difficult to use. Fast forward 20 years and VR is once again becoming popular, and this time more than ever. This is because we now have computers powerful enough to actually support these VR systems, which means that almost anyone can now access high-quality VR content from the comfort of their home. A normal VR System typically consists of a headset, headphones, and whatever computer is being used to power the headset. Inside of the headset wearers will be presented with 3-dimensional content (video games or videos) that allow the user to feel as if they are transported somewhere else. One of the cool things about these headsets is that they translate physical movement to digital. This makes using these systems feel like stepping into a video game, and who hasn’t dreamt about being in a video game?
Oculus Rift – Probably the most well known VR headset currently available, the Oculus Rift is a high-end VR headset for the PC that is aimed primarily at VR enthusiasts and gamers. The Oculus will definitely provide a quality experience, but it will come at a cost. The Oculus starts at 600$ but don’t expect that to be the only expense. A computer capable of powering the Oculus will set you back an additional 800-1,000$ depending on what you purchase. The Oculus isn’t the cheapest option for getting into VR, but it won’t disappoint.
HTC Vive – The most sophisticated system of the bunch, the HTC Vive, much like the Oculus, is a high-end VR headset for the PC that is aimed at people looking for the best possible VR experience. One of the primary differences between the Oculus and the HTC Vive is that the Vive actually comes with wall mounted cameras that track the headset as the user moves around – the Oculus uses a similar camera that you place on your desk. Also unlike the Oculus, which only comes with a normal gamepad controller, the Vive comes with two handheld controllers that mimic the movement of actual hands while playing. These extra features will come at a cost, though. The Vive costs 800$, which is a full 200$ more than the Oculus. In this case, you are definitely paying for what you get, but whether or not that’s worth it is definitely up to you. One thing to note about the Vive is that it requires more room to use, so if you are short on playing space than the Oculus might be a better option.
Playstation VR – Coming out on October 13th for the Playstation 4, Playstation VR (PSVR) is the first VR headset that is being released for a console. Starting at 400$, it will also be substantially cheaper than other high-end VR options, while still offering a similar experience. Due to the fact that it is being released on a console, the amount of content released for it will be less than that of the PC systems, but because of the simplicity of the Playstation 4, PSVR is guaranteed to be simpler to use and set-up. While the Vive and Oculus tend to be aimed at enthusiasts, PSVR will truly be a system for the masses. Anyone with a Playstation 4 will be able to buy one and immediately start using it. As far as set-up goes, it really is just plug-and-play.
While there are still some issues with VR, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the VR systems that have already come out or are coming out soon. These systems do something that has never been done before in digital entertainment: transport you to the digital realm. Feeling as if you are somewhere else can be exhilarating, terrifying, enthralling, and just about any other emotion you can imagine. Being entertained isn’t the only benefit of VR, however. VR is also being used as an educational tool, a therapeutic tool, and a design tool – and these tools aren’t just available to a small subset of people, anyone who buys a VR system has access to any of the content published for that platform. People have been saying VR is the future of digital media for more than 20 years now, but only now are these experiences refined enough for that to be considered true. A common misconception about VR is that it is only useful for playing games, but that is simply not true – it is capable of so much more. If you are a video game enthusiast, progressive teacher, media creator, or even a designer, VR is definitely worth looking into.
VR may be extremely cool and exciting, that, however, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its problems. One of the primary things that everyone should be aware of when looking into VR is the motion sickness that it can cause. For those that get easily motion sick, VR is not something that we would recommend. Our current level of technology is light years ahead of where it was 20 years ago, but that doesn’t mean that every problem has been fixed. Due to the fact that most VR experiences are used while sitting, it is easy for your brain to get confused when you are moving in a game but not in real life. Another thing to be aware of is that VR headsets don’t work perfectly with glasses. The Oculus and PSVR both allow you to adjust the distance that the screen is from your eyes in order to accommodate larger glasses. These fixes are not perfect, but they do help. Users that rely on larger glasses for normal vision might want to look into the HTC Vive as an option, it has a little bit more flexibility for accommodating glasses.
VR might have its issues, but we don’t think that those problems should prevent anyone from experiencing how amazing VR actually is. For those who aren’t quite sold on the idea and don’t want to make a huge investment in VR, PSVR is probably the best option. Even though it’s the cheapest option on this list, it won’t disappoint. For those who would like to take the plunge, our official recommendation is the Oculus Rift. Despite the fact that the HTC Vive comes with some additional hardware, we don’t think that it warrants the 200$ price difference. Additionally, the Oculus is both more comfortable to wear, and comes with built-in headphones that are far better than the flimsy earbuds that ship with the Vive.