Head-mounted display. 90Hz refresh rate. Field of view. 2160 x 1200 / 1920×1080.
With jargons like these thrown around, it is not surprising that business executives find virtual reality headsets to be an intimidating arena. When we were young and naïve, we would aim to bedazzle executives with such high-falutin technicalities. Of course, not wanting to look like a technological caveman, they would indulge us with nods of thoughtful appreciation. (If you happened to be one of them and are reading this, allow us to take this chance to apologize!)
It didn’t take us long though, to realize that with most executives wishing to either use VR for marketing or training purposes, they just wish to know – “Which device does the job? HTC or Gear VR or Google Cardboard?”
With Conversation after conversation after conversation, we find that executives generally care about a few things for virtual reality:
- User experience (immersion, clarity)
- Ease of use / availability in Singapore
- Cost, with its related consequence to content distribution.
As such, we will explain popular headsets with them. No 90Hz, no 2160 pixels.
Because we know: time is precious, baby, and we just ain’t got much.
We will explain each headset, from the best to the…erm…rest. This blog post will be split into 2 parts.
DESKTOP / CONSOLE POWERED HEADSETS
Just when we thought HTC would go the way of Blackberry… Bam! They remind us of their technological prowess with the HTC Vive, which in our opinion, is the best VR headset available.
User experience: Fantastic. Immersive, clear, comfortable. We have yet to hear of anyone feeling nauseous while using it. (although we know that such poor souls definitely exist!)
Interactivity: Wonderful. With two hand-held controllers that soon feel part of your body, users can tap, throw, punch, hurl. Expect intuitive interaction with the virtual environment.
Ease of use: Available for sale in Singapore on the HTC online store and in physical stores of Harvey Norman. It has to be connected to a high-performance computer (no, your typical computer will not work. Neither will your fancy Mac.) and you will find a small net of wires around your setup.
Cost: SGD$4350. It retails in Harvey Norman for around SGD$1350. Add another SGD$3,000 for your high-performance computer and wazam! $4350 down. You ain’t going to buy too many sets of this – if mass distribution of content is what you are prioritizing, you will not go for this. Unless you really have tons of cash to burn.
HTC Vive: Virtual reality that’s so damn real I can’t even handle it
Almost everyone has heard of Oculus. Including the famous story of it’s founder, Luckey, whose company was acquired for US$2bn to Facebook. At that time, he was 22 years old, talk about being Luckey.
User experience: Great experience, we place it in the same category as HTC Vive. As user experience has a degree of subjectivity, some will argue it’s better than HTC Vive.
Interactivity: When they released their touch controllers in Dec 2016, users were able to use their hands to interact with the environment. Similar to HTC Vive.
Ease of use: Not officially available for sale in Singapore. However, there are several vendors that will import it from places like the USA into Singapore. Dealing with such vendors is slightly cumbersome and out-of-stock issues are common. Like the HTC Vive, this headset has to be connected to a high-performance computer.
Cost: SGD$4100. Buying it from importing vendors will cost around $1,100 to $1,300. Don’t forget SGD$3,000 for your high-performance computer and you are easily $4,000 out-of-pocket. Cheaper than the HTC Vive, but just by a wee bit.
Oculus Rift: Welcome to the future
Sony’s foray into VR was anticipated with bated breath. With it’s wide customer base of gamers, it naturally has a strong library of VR game content.
User experience: Observably inferior to HTC and Oculus. Screen resolution is poorer and can induce small bouts of motion sickness. However, for users who are new to VR, it will still blow them away. The headset materials are also comfortable and stylish.
Interactivity: Hand held controllers are available. Overall, it is smooth but it has the occasional tracking errors – what you see on the screen may not accurately match your controller movements.
Ease of use: Debuted in Singapore in October 2016 and was promptly sold out. It is easier to set up compared to the HTC or Oculus as you just have to plug a few wires within your PlayStation console. Yes, you do not need to buy a desktop to run this! It runs on your PlayStation console! (PS4 and above)
Cost: SGD$1,300. Here’s the big reason why PlayStation VR was sold out. It gives you roughly 80% of the experience of HTC and Oculus, but at a fraction of the cost as you do not have to purchase a $3,000 high-performance computer. When it comes to value per dollar, it comes out on top.
PlayStation VR: When good enough is great
The Latest Developments
HP, Dell, Acer and Lenovo are some of the big names that are creating headsets that promise to disrupt the status quo. Their main aim is to provide the same experience yet deliver these headsets for below USD$400, which is basically slashing the prices of HTC and Oculus by half. All these will be released in 2017.
At this juncture, it is beneficial to take a breather. Basically, we have just covered the high-end headsets category: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR. While providing deeply immersive experiences, they are limited in their distribution as few have such hardware. For corporate marketing purposes, this is critical. For marketers, smartphone powered headsets may hold the key to their conundrum. Read Part 2 of this write-up to find out more!