Virtual Reality (VR) Headsets

Any discussion of home entertainment these days is incomplete without mentioning the growing presence of Virtual Reality in the living room.  Officially dubbed VR3, because of the failure of the both the 1980’s and 1990’s incarnations, the new VR is light years ahead of its predecessors both in content and acceptance.

In the 1980’s VR Pioneer Jaron Lanier and his partner founded VPL Research, focusing on commercializing virtual reality technologies.  With much media coverage and attendant funding, the company prospered for a few years, but then filed for bankruptcy in 1990.  The products they created were expensive, and without powerful hardware, the software applications were anemic.  The patents were bought by Sun Microsystems in 1999, and likely archived inside some scary robot hidden beneath Bill Joy’s office.

The 1990s was only a bit more promising.  VR2 was focused primarily on gaming consoles.  In 1991, Sega introduced the Sega VR headset for its console system.  It utilized LCD screens in the visor, stereo headphones, and inertial sensors.  Computer Gaming world was so impressed it predicted that we’d have “affordable VR” by 1994.  Needless to say, that prediction was a tad optimistic.  Affordable VR has only come in the last few years.

Also in 1995, a group in Seattle gave public demonstrations of a 270 degree immersive projection room called the “Virtual Environment Theater”.  Forte released the VFX1, a PC-powered virtual reality headset in 1995, which was supported by games including Descent, Star Wars: Dark Forces, System Shock and Quake.

Microsoft and other software giants invested in VR projects for much of the nineties without bringing significant products to market.   Little known Virtual Worlds such as AlphaWorld, gave birth to the concept of online “spaces” and from that sprung the best know of them – Second Life.

VR languished until 2010, when entrepreneur Palmer Luckey created a prototype of the Oculus Rift.  VR3 had officially begun.  Borrowing heavily from what was already available, the device was only capable of rotational tracking. However, it boasted a 90-degree field of vision that was previously unseen in the consumer market at the time.

In 2013, Gaming giant Valve discovered and freely shared the breakthrough of low-persistence displays which make lag-free and smear-free display of VR content possible. This is the technology adopted by Oculus and was used in all their future headsets.  As you are probably aware, Oculus was sold to Facebook for about a gajillion dollars.

Now the problems that plagued VR in the past, such as poor performance, lack of content and exorbitant prices have mostly been overcome.  While the Oculus is still not priced in the consumer range for the majority of customers, there are plenty of other providers, including big names like Google and Samsung, willing to step in and fill the low-end gap.  The resultant products have achieved a great deal of what their more expensive brethren offer at a much lower price.

Today, content ranges from full-on Multiverse type games like Eve Online, to watching user created content on some of the Internet’s most recognized platforms, including Amazon and Google.  While this blog is mostly focused on the home entertainment angle, including movies and games, there’s a whole host of applications outside of entertainment, including education, engineering, simulation and training.

There’s little doubt that the third time is a charm for VR and we’re just at the beginning of what will become an integral part of both online and local media usage.

Here are a few products that will get you started exploring the world of Virtual Reality.

 

Samsung Gear VR

Product Highlights

  • Uses the same VR technology as the more expensive Oculus Rift
  • Easy to use touch pad with dedicated Back and Home buttons
  • Wide field of view, precise head-tracking and low latency brings reality to the virtual, Be transported to amazing new worlds, in games, video and images, Thousands of 360 degree panoramic photos
  • Accelerometer, Gyrometer, Proximity (Mount/Unmount Detection)
  • Compatible with: Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy Note5, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge
  • Lightweight – only weighs 1lb

The Samsung Gear VR is one of the most affordable of the new generation of Oculus-type devices intended to turn your Galaxy Smartphone into a virtual reality experience.

Some customer reviews

I feel like Samsung and Occulus FINALLY got this VR headset right! There’s more possible free features that I can count, and when looking at some streaming video I thought to myself that I TRULY felt that I was there and personally having the experience myself!

Lightyears above any of the google cardboard headsets you can get.

These Glasses are awesome! I really enjoyed them. There are many VR apps in the app store and its nice to know that there are a lot of content for these glasses. For those of you who have not experienced VR, you are in for a treat!


 

Google Daydream View

Product Highlights

  • Works with Android 7 Phones including Pixel and Moto Z
  • Brand new to the market
  • Google already offering or planning much content for Play store
  • Padded headset for comfortable wear.
  • Intuitive controller for hands-on experience of your VR adventures.
  • Soft, washable design and an easy-load phone system.
  • Lightweight – only weighs 1lb

The Google Daydream View is brand new to the market but promises to be a big contender with a massive amount of device and content support from Google.

Some customer reviews

I’ve used most of the current VR systems available at this time. For the money, the Google Daydream View is the best bang for the buck.

Best VR headset on the market. Almost HALF the price of the next decent offering. If your phone is new enough to support Daydream, get this!

I love that this fits over my glasses. It is very comfortable to wear. I use this with my Pixel.


 

Bnext 3D VR Headset

Product Highlights

  • Breathable Foam Face for Extended Wear
  • Comfortable and Adjustable Head Straps
  • FD and OD Adjustments for Reduced Distortion
  • Eyesight Protection System
  • Supports Screen Size: 4”- 6”
  • Supports Screen Resolutions: HD, 3D, 720p, 1080p
  • Compatibility: iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Google Series, HTC, and most smartphones
  • Weighs less than 1lb

The Bnext 3D VR Headset is a budget contender for providing a complete, immersive virtual reality experiment on a variety of portable devices.

Some customer reviews

I’m a beginner and that’s the second headset I bought. It’s easier to use and has bigger lenses so the experience is better. Definitely think you should get one if you’ve never had one before.

Very comfy to wear, my phone fit perfectly. I have a iphone7 plus it was awesome!

The BNext VR Headset is a wonderful product. Crystal clear visual displays and easy to use.