Consumer virtual reality (VR) has become a reality this year, with major hardware players offering now affordable VR gadgets on the market.
VR Tech Advances In 2016
According to ZDNet, virtual reality is not a concept that bellows to the future anymore. The technology is already here and, this year, it has become a reality on the consumer market.
Tech experts agree that 2016 has been a major year in VR. Especially now, in time for Christmas 2016's shopping rush, there are so many consumer options on the market from top hardware players. Big companies such as Sony, Google, Facebook and others have launched this year their first headsets aimed at the masses.
The companies involved in advancing the VR tech are not only interested in hardware domination but they also aim to get ahead on the platform and software side as well. For the next year, tech experts forecast even bigger breakthroughs in virtual reality coming to consumers.
We are likely to see several new products launched in January, at CES 2017. But, until then, let's take a look at the top VR gadgets available to buy this holiday season.
Samsung Gear VR
The Gear VR has been released in November 2015 in collaboration wth Facebook-owned Oculus. This VR device is Samsung's take on virtual reality.
The gadget is compatible with various Samsung Galaxy smartphone models, including Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6/S6 Edge/S6 Edge+ and Galaxy S7/S7 Edge. The Gear VR acts as a controller and display when it mounts a Galaxy phone. In order to download and manage content, the Gear VR uses Oculus Home.
Tech experts expect that the device will be updated by Samsung, alongside with the launch of the Galaxy S8 next year. While not as comfortable as Google's offering, the Gear VR is getting the mobile VR job done. The device costs $99.
Sony PlayStation VR
According to CNET, Sony's PlayStation VR has been one of the main attractions this year, thanks to its compatibility with the PlayStation 4 and to being relatively cheap. According to market data, PlayStation VR has reached already millions of home theater setups.
The VR gadget from Sony costs $399 as a standalone unit. However, in order to get the full experience, you'll also need motion tracking controllers and a PlayStation 4. So, if you want to get Sony's VR experience in your living room, all in all it will cost you about $700.
In October, when PlayStation VR launched, Sony unveiled a nice list of launch titles. The company has also made available a theater mode for movies purchased through Sony and it has promised more games and content to come in 2017.
Google Daydream View
Google's Daydream View is the giant tech company's take on VR. The product is the newest VR gadget on the market, released in October alongside its Pixel and Pixel XL mobile phones.
The Daydream View is Google's headset for its Daydream platform and VR. The wearable VR gadget comes complete with a motion controller for pointing in VR and a design reminiscent of clothing.
Currently, the Google Daydream View has a price tag of $79. The VR gadget comes in several color options, including snow, slate, and crimson.
NFC takes care of pairing with Google's new smartphones. All you have to do is to simply position the smartphone in the front of the headset. According to reviews, Daydream View is among the cheapest for a mobile VR experience, as well as the simplest to setup and use.
Currently, Daydream View offers several games and apps through Daydream software, including Home Run Deby, Hulu, and YouTube. It is expected that Google will launch a VR equivalent of Android, and it seems that Daydream View is a way of getting there.
HTC's VR business is certainly headed in the right direction. The company has released its HTC Vive in April 2016. The VR gadget features two wireless handheld controllers, just like its competitor, the Oculus Rift.
One of the advantages of the HTC Vive is that it offers support of a major player in the gaming industry, Valve. In November has been released an HTC Vive add-on that makes it possible to use the VR gadget without wires.
The Vive features SteamVR tracking to know whether the user is playing standing, seated or in a room-scale space. The headset also comes with the Vive Phone Services, a feature that allows users to send and receive text messages and calls, as well as checking their calendar without removing the headset. Among the downsides of the Vive, however, is the fact that the headset requires a high-end PC setup.
Oculus didn't release a consumer headset until March 2016, even if the company is considered as one of the first major players in the VR industry. Recently, Facebook-owned Oculus has also included Oculus Touch controllers for a better VR immersion experience and physical buttons to play classic games.
The Oculus Rift does not come cheap. The VR gadget costs $599 and, on top of that, it also requires some pretty high-end Windows PC specifications. Bur one of its advantages is that there is already a strong collection of software apps to explore. With the Oculus Rift, users are sure to get a hardcore VR experience.