The State of VR Headsets in 2019: What Should You Buy?

The Oculus Rift S VR headset

In the past three years, virtual reality has not set the world on fire. Even in this case, 2019 announces it as the best year of VR, with new headsets that might have deciphered the code to meet the needs of gamers.

After all, how many people do you know with a VR platform at the scale of a room in their living room? Probably not much, and depending StatistaLess than 5 million units were sold in 2018. Clearly, virtual reality is not the resounding success that some might have hoped for when Oculus and HTC launched their high-end headsets with PC connection in 2016. But that does not mean that the party is over.

Is it the year when you should worry about virtual reality? We will take a look.

It's always all about games

When we examined the VR helmets in 2018the world was much more binary; There were some attached headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, as well as a large number of mobile headsets running with a smartphone. A lot of things can change in a year, and stand-alone headsets – which do not require a computer or a phone – which, we said, were starting to happen.

That said, nothing about the basic use scenario of virtual reality has changed in the last two years; it's still mostly for the game. There have been several furtive attempts to transform virtual reality into more than just gaming platforms, such as virtual desktops (like the Oculus Desktop and the multiplatform Virtual Office) and movie experiences. But virtual desktops are clumsy and video platforms are at first sight inferior to real world home theaters. Why would you want to watch a movie in a headset – with a lower resolution and with the door-screen effect resembling the one we see with most headphones – while you can watch it in the real world at 4K to the place?

That said, HTC is also trying to gain space in the company by offering two products for businesses. the HTC Vive Pro offers a breakthrough compared to Vive's original graphics and is particularly aimed at businesses. The same goes for the future HTC Vive Focus, a stand-alone headset that does not need to be connected to a PC. This is the beginning for these products and it remains to be seen whether there are enough industrial, academic and professional applications to allow VR to gain a foothold in these markets. For the moment, most of the sector is interested in consumers.

Which means that these are really games. In this respect, virtual reality offers benefits that are rarely exhilarating. First-person games like Arizona Sunshine– A zombie shooter – is visceral. In fact, they can be overwhelming for some players; There is a difference between watching a horror movie and being in a movie. But other games have a wider appeal. Final Assaultfor example, raising the genre of real-time strategy to something like what the omnipotent man-child of Star Trek would choose to do with plastic soldiers.

Battle simulation in VR Final AssaultPhaser Lock Interactive

Speaking of Star Trek, there are also simulators, like Star Trek: Deck crew, which allows you to command a spaceship (and is just as rewarding as it sounds). And then there is the WW2 simulator WW2, realistic enough to feel. IronWolf VR. There are rhythm games, lightsaber games and lightsaber rhythm games. If you played 2D version of Keep talking and no one explodes, you owe it to yourself to play the VR version, in which a player manipulates a VR bomb while he is surrounded by his teammates in the dining area, helping to disarm it. And it's hard not to like the ridiculously charming puzzles like Waddle Home. Whatever game you play in, do not be surprised if you wear a silly smile all the time you spend in an RV environment – and the thrill does not fade over time.

The bridge of a ship in the Star Trek VR game: Bridge CrewUbisoft

We would like more mainstream developers to be engaged in creating great, story-driven, story-based games, but gaming innovations are not lacking, thanks to countless independent developers creating small games for different platforms.

In conclusion, the game in VR is not a pony ride, a gadget or a fad. You can get bored of a particular game, but the experience of virtual reality always draws you more.

The headphones become less and less expensive

So why does not everyone have their own VR platform? Well, there is no question that the costs and complexity have hindered adoption.

The "connected" headsets that led the revolution in 2016 – the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift – have suffered from high costs, but for three years, prices have moderated. The first users were willing to spend $ 798 to get a full Rift package or $ 799 for an HTC Vive, but the Oculus Rift S (an original Rift software upgrade) sells for only 399 USD.

Oculus Rift S VR HeadsetOculus

Likewise, the HTC Vive, which is still essentially the same product as that released by HTC in 2016, is selling for $ 499, up from $ 799.

It's still a lot of money and the complexity is always an Achilles heel. Connected systems require rugged PCs with expensive graphics cards. Oculus needs a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or higher, while HTC asks for an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970. If you're already a player, you probably have a computer that meets these specifications, but it may be in a badly adapted little room. VR – so you have to move it to the living room or get a second computer. And for the RV at the scale of the Vive Room, you have to install trackers to the wall. Is it surprising that adoption is slow?

If you agree to enjoy the best gaming experience possible with a hard hat, you'll have relief on the horizon. Last year, in cooperation with traditional hardware partners such as Lenovo, HP and Samsung, Microsoft rolled out Helmets "mixed reality" (which implies both virtual reality and virtual reality, but at least for the moment, these are just virtual reality experiences). But what's interesting is that MR VR1000-100 MR The earphone runs on a PC with built-in graphics, saving you hundreds of dollars on the PC it's connected to.

HP VR1000-100 VR HeadsetHP

And if you prefer the VR flavor of Vive, HTC has finally released its wireless adapter at the end of 2018, you can abandon the wires that connect the headset to the PC. It's liberating, but it costs $ 299.

HTC Vive VR headset with wireless adapterHTC

Back-tracking simplifies virtual reality

Another exciting innovation is the advent of so-called "in-house" follow-up.

Traditionally, for a headset to know its orientation and position (what engineers call six degrees of freedom or 6 degrees of freedom), you need external tracking positioned around the room. Oculus does this by placing a pair of sensors in front of the play area; HTC provides a pair of followers called headlights that must be attached to the wall on each side of the playground. These two solutions are called "outside-inside" because external devices face the reading area to keep an eye on the headphones and the controllers.

This year, however, we are starting to see "inside" helmets, and they are game changers. By placing a set of cameras on the helmet designed to provide 6DOF without external hardware, the initial setup is greatly simplified and the helmets themselves become much more portable.

the Oculus Rift S is one of those headsets, which should be available around the time of this article. It sells for $ 399. And HTC is not far behind, preparing for the next HTC Vive Cosmos, which also renounces the need for lighthouses.

HTC Vive Cosmos VR HeadsetHTC

Mobile headsets are always aimed at tourists in virtual reality

Until recently, in virtual reality, you had only two choices: an expensive captive system, or a mobile headset by pressing a smartphone inserted to deliver the goods. There is now a third option, the autonomous headsets, to which we will return in a moment. But before you get there, it's worth noting that mobile headsets are good value if you want to immerse yourself in the ocean VR, especially since you can do it for less than $ 100.

The gold standard for mobile headsets is probably the Samsung Gear VR, which hosts a variety of Galaxy handsets.

Samsung Gear VR HelmetSamsung

If you're not a Samsung user, there are also options such as Google Daydream View, which works with about a dozen handsets, including Pixel 2, Pixel 3 and LG, ASUS and Huawei models. Or, there is the 3D Pansonite VR and the MERGE VRwhich both work with a wider variety of iPhones and Android devices at a cost of around $ 50.

These headsets rest on your phone for all processing and graphic work. The content they display is therefore necessarily much less complex than captive helmets. And while the helmets know their orientation in the space, they rely on a command of the helmet or a portable controller (standard with helmets such as Gear VR, Daydream View and Pansonite) to allow you to move in the VR environment. Still, a mobile VR headset is a great way to get your feet wet.

And there is another mobile VR entry work mentioning – Nintendo VR Lab, which is refreshing. You may have seen Labo. It is a set of cardboard Switch accessories that children (or adults) can assemble and integrate into the Switch game.

Nintendo Labo VR cardboard helmet for switchNintendo

So not like the original Google cardboard, you build a Labo VR headset, then insert the switch where you normally slide in a smartphone. It's a kind of fantasy (one helmet has the shape of an elephant, another is a bird), and there are accessories such as blasters and cameras that you use in short multiplayer games by playing turn with the helmet. In the end, no one (children or adults) wants to play with the VR Lab for hours and hours, but it's a surprisingly charming introduction to virtual reality.

Stand-alone headphones might be the best choice

What's new in the world of virtual reality in 2019 is the growing availability of stand-alone virtual reality headsets – models that do not require a PC or phone connection, because all electronics are found on board the helmet. This is the next logical step in the evolution of virtual reality and it could be the version of virtual reality that installs a virtual reality headset in every living room.

One of the first autonomous headsets to arrive was the Oculus GoAnd since its price starts at $ 200, it's an inexpensive way to try a better-quality virtual reality experience than you can get with mobile headsets without the cost and complexity of a connected system. Like the mobile helmets, the Go is not a helmet piece; This does not allow you to move freely in a large space to interact with your virtual reality universe.

Oculus Go VR headphonesOculus

But this is only the beginning. It seems that the future of virtual reality might well be stand-alone headsets with an upside down tracking, which avoids having to connect to a PC and also eliminates permanent monitoring devices. A powerful, high fidelity, easy-to-configure and fully portable VR system that appeals. Such devices are there. the Lenovo Mirage Solo, priced at $ 400, includes end-to-end tracking and is already available.

And, ship roughly at the time of publication of this article, Oculus Quest is a similar stand-alone headset, sold starting at $ 399. This is perhaps the helmet we all expected and could well replace the attached mode RV systems in the next few years.

Oculus Quest VR HeadsetOculus

It's a world of virtual reality

With so many innovations in the virtual reality space, we are starting to see helmets turn into products that make sense to average consumers rather than to early users – a follow-up to the reverse which allows room-scale movement, stand-alone headsets that do not require a PC or smartphone, and smart innovations at any price.

While this does not guarantee the success of virtual reality at home, virtual reality is probably not going anywhere. We are developing an appetite for virtual reality, as evidenced by the virtual reality experiences that are opening up in shopping malls and entertainment centers across the country. Dreamy landscapefor example, offers a handful of virtual reality interactive adventures in the Southern California region and plans to deploy additional sites later this year.

Virtual reality simulation of extraterrestrial dinosaursDreamy landscape

The void is another virtual reality experience already present in a dozen sites, with interactive experiences based on a valuable intellectual property such as Star Wars, Ghostbusters and Wreck-It Ralph. And gaming centers and game rooms regularly include virtual reality games with Oculus or Vive systems that you can rent for a few (expensive) chips.

What you should do in 2019

As you can see, it's a hectic time to watch a VR headset.

If you want to invest $ 100 or less to see what everyone is talking about, a headset compatible with your smartphone is a good alternative – especially if it includes a remote control, so you do not have to keep your hands on the helmet to move in the environment.

But if you are ready to make a larger investment, you may want to wait a few months to see how dust will settle on the list of new products down this year. There's no denying that stand-alone, self-monitoring headsets like the Oculus Quest feel like the future, but it may take more than a generation or two of these peripherals for graphics and performance respect the standard defined by the helmets inside.

In the meantime, if you can handle the cables and the computer system required, there is a lot to say about the more connected traditional headphones such as the Rift S and maybe even the upcoming ones ($ 999). Valve index (which doubles the end-to-end tracking, but promises a better resolution at a higher price). If you are interested in virtual reality and have not yet purchased a system, 2019 promises to be a compelling year.

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