SMARTPHONE POWERED HEADSETS
The beauty of this space is its easy ubiquity. Create a VR mobile application, download it on a smartphone and place the smartphone within one of the headsets below. Voila! You are VR-ready. Marketers considering distribution would find this option as the most promising.
But wait…have you read Part 1 of this write-up? If you have, read on. If not, you will miss out on a complete picture of the hardware scene!
Samsung Gear VR
Samsung Gear VR is the benchmark for smartphone powered headsets. It popularized the idea that all one needs to enjoy virtual reality is (1) buy a VR headset and (2) slot in your smartphone to double up as the screen.
User experience: Several grades lower than the high-end headsets as the computing power of a smartphone is obviously weaker. The sharpness of the images and fluidity of the experience is dependent upon the smartphone model you use. The best compatible smartphone, S7, provides a good experience and a reasonable degree of immersion. The Samsung Gear VR still has what it takes to impress those who try VR for the first time.
Interactivity: There are no handheld controllers. While some workarounds exist, users generally interact with the environment by tapping on a track-pad which is built on the side of the Gear VR.
Ease of use: A kid could set this up. Well, at least a reasonably bright one. All you need is to download the Samsung Gear app on your mobile phone and then follow the instructions to slot the phone into the Gear VR headset. Before you know it, you are in virtual reality!
One significant bummer – the Gear VR is only compatible with Samsung phones and selected models, at that. So too bad for all you non-Samsung users. Not a surprising move by Samsung though, the Gear VR was to strengthen its product ecosystem.
Cost: SGD$700++. The headset alone costs SGD$100 or less. However, do remember to include the purchase of the smartphone! This will cost somewhere from $600 to $1000, depending on the model.
Samsung Gear VR: Still the reigning champ of mobile VR but Daydream is coming
Google Daydream View
With Samsung pushing hard in the VR space, why did Google take so long to produce a decent VR headset? One wonders if the name of this Nov’16 hardware release hints to the prior state they were in. Anyhow, the Daydream View holds much promise and has definitely made us excited.
User experience: Not too different from the Samsung Gear. Positive comments have been made about the firm, velvety build of the headset but nothing to exactly crow about.
Interactivity: This is the game changer. The controller provided with the View is what opens a plethora of opportunities to interact with the environment. With a clickable trackpad, “menu” and “home” buttons, along with volume adjusters, this handheld controller allows the user to engage in different actions.
Imagine having something like a laser point within your virtual environment, which when focused on something and clicked, allows you to interact with that object. You could thus push, lift or shift the object. If you see a door, clicking could open them or lead to graphics emerging. While this is nothing novel, we had been waiting for one of the behemoths to provide a standard platform for mobile VR interactivity. This looks to be it.
Ease of use: Unavailable in Singapore, with only import vendors selling it. That’s for the headset. From the smartphones, while there is promised to be a whole stream of smartphones that will run Android Nougat 7.1 and be compatible with Daydream, right now, it is limited to a handful of them. Google Pixel phones being one of them, of course.
(Guess what – the Google Pixel is not released in Singapore too.)
Cost: SGD$1,000. If bought from overseas, the View and it’s handheld controller is about SGD$100. Throw in the Pixel smartphone for about SGD$900 and you have a round figure of $1,000.
Daydream View: I have to say I’m sort of smitten
Google Cardboard and The Like
User experience: The Cardboard retails for less than $5. Clearly, Google’s aim is to provide accessibility to VR. The quality of the experience is necessarily sacrificed. Lenses used are not high quality, the cardboard may leave a “footprint” on your face after use and the cardboard has to be self-assembled. But for that price point, you really don’t complain.
Interactivity: There is no in-built interactivity so you can just let your hands rest. Oh wait, for some Cardboard models, there are no headstraps, so your hands have to hold them to your face. So, no rest, after all.
A common interactivity hack is to ignore the hardware and program it into the mobile application instead. Programs can be made such that when the user gazes at a specific point/icon in the scene for more than 3 seconds, it triggers an event, thus giving some interactivity.
Ease of use: Easily purchased in Singapore from Lazada, Carousell, Gumtree. A cottage industry of suppliers has sprouted in Singapore. The Cardboard is compatible with all smartphones that can play 360°, VR content.
Cost: SGD$5, assuming you have a smartphone already. If you are curious about what Virtual Reality is, this is the lowest point of access. Download a VR app on your mobile phone, shell out $5 for a cardboard and off you go!
Cardboard: Cheap, mobile virtual reality that’s a cinch to make
Other Regular Headsets
There is galore of other headsets that are variants of the Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream View. They range from Carl Zeiss, Freefly and Merge, who attempt to create a superior experience, to XiaoMi, VRBox, BoboVr, who are trying to create more cost-effective equivalents to the Samsung Gear VR.
Such headsets cost from SGD$15 to SGD$200, not including the smartphone required.
The headset that best works for you would mostly depend on the purpose. We have had advised high budget clients to go for the lower-cost smartphone sets and had also encouraged clients with budget constraints to consider increasing it and going for the HTC Vive.
While this article gives an overview of the current scene, there will be nuances that can’t be captured. That is where a discussion will help and VizioFly invites you to reach out!