Virtual reality is one of the biggest tech trends of recent years. From the heavy-duty PC gaming offered by Oculus Rift to the console-friendly PlayStation VR and the affordable Samsung Gear VR which your smartphone slots into.
There is, it seems, a virtual reality headset and experience for everyone. And with YouTube and Facebook upping their VR game, it’s about so much more than gaming.
Different types of virtual reality headset
Manufacturers of virtual reality kit say VR is the ‘gateway for exploration’ – giving you the chance to explore fictional worlds and travel to far-flung locations from your living room.
There are 2 types of VR headset – and they’re quite different in terms of how they work and also how much they cost.
Tethered VR headsets
HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR are examples of tethered headsets. These headsets:
- Contain 2 built-in screens, both streaming video at high speeds to deliver a 360° experience
- Connect to a high-powered PC or in some cases a games console
‘Screenless’ VR headsets
Samsung Gear VR and the Google Daydream View are examples of a ‘screenless’ headset. These are much cheaper and:
- Don’t have their own screens or connect to a PC
- You slot a compatible smartphone into the headset
Virtual reality and gaming
Though we’re talking about VR beyond gaming, it’s still the main reason people purchase a VR headset. Players are sucked into a virtual world of 360° video viewed through the headset. While hand movements are tracked through motion sensors on special wireless controllers.
Our gaming expert got hands on with VR at CES. Deep underwater on a sunken ship, he noticed ‘shoals of tiny fish swam inches from my face, flitting away as I waved my hands at them. The 3D effect here was brilliant’.
The VR headsets are compatible with different gaming platforms.
HTC Vive and Steam VR
The HTC Vive hooks up to a high-powered PC and works with the popular online gaming platform Steam. The Vive is the most advanced headset you can buy – with features like better-than-HD screens and an extra-wide field of view. It’s designed to get the best from PCs with powerful Intel Core processors.
Steam is built into the Vive. Together the two companies have developed SteamVR – a virtual reality version of the platform. There are plenty of games to choose from.
PlayStation VR and PS4
PlayStation VR is cheaper to buy than the Vive and you only need a PS4 console rather than a high-powered PC.
For PS4 devotees, PlayStation VR is a bit of a no-brainer. It lacks some of the advanced features of the Vive but still delivers amazing VR gaming.
There are loads of games for PlayStation VR. From Resident Evil 7: Biohazard to Arizona Sunshine, Farpoint and Battlezone.
Which VR headset is right for me? <link to: https://techtalk.currys.co.uk/tv-gaming/which-vr-headset-is-right-for-me/>
Smartphone headsets – VR for everyone?
The Samsung Gear VR uses a smartphone as its screen and is not connected to a PC or a console.
It works with the Samsung Galaxy S8, S7 or S6 smartphone. For less than £100, it transforms your phone into a mobile virtual reality headset.
Another affordable option is Google Daydream View. Rather than hooking up to a computer, it works with Google Pixel smartphones – more phones will soon be announced.
Both of these have stacks of cool app games you can download and play – many of them optimised for VR.
VR beyond gaming – Facebook and YouTube
Facebook Spaces transforms your group chats. No matter where your friends are in the world, you’ll feel as though you’re hanging out in the same room. You each have an avatar of yourself that you can all see through your VR headset –currently Spaces is only compatible with Oculus Rift. Find out more about Facebook Spaces <link to Facebook Spaces BAU article>
YouTube fans should check out the YouTube VR app for Google Daydream View. It puts lots of 360° video within easy reach. You can swim with great white sharks, see dinosaurs come back to life and hike off into the mountains.
You can enjoy Netflix in a virtual cinema on both the Gear VR and Daydream. While the Gear VR has Oculus Tours giving you 360° video of national parks and suchlike.
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