The Age of VR has emerged from all of the hype and expectation into a burgeoning new economy which will service a very wide variety of users, purposes and needs. Here is a technological snapshot of the 4 top Virtual Reality systems in their debut incarnations.
SAMSUNG GEAR VR
Samsung Gear VR is a mobile virtual reality device developed by Samsung Electronics in collaboration with Oculus VR. A compatible Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 edge device, sold separately, acts as the headset’s display and processing, while the Gear VR unit itself contains the high field of view lenses as well as a custom IMU for rotational tracking which connects to the smartphone via micro-USB. This IMU is more accurate and well calibrated with lower latency than internal smartphone IMUs such as used for Google Cardboard. The Gear VR is backwardly compatible with Galaxy S5, S6, and S6 edge devices as well. It is 19% lighter in weight than the first release of the Gear VR and the touchpad has been increased in size to improve user interactivity.
DIMENSION: 201.9 x 116.4 x 92.6 mm
DISPLAY: 2560 x 1440 pixel Super AMOLED
REFRESH RATE: 60 Hz
FIELD OF VIEW: 96º
PHYSICAL USER INTERFACE (PUI): Touchpad, Back key, Volume Key, Focus Adjustment Wheel
SENSORS: Gyro, Accelerometer, Proximity
INTERPUPILLARY DISTANCE COVERAGE: 54~70mm
CHARGING PORT FOR MOBILE PHONE: Micro USB
WEIGHT: 318g without the Galaxy Smartphone
COMPATIBLE DEVICES: S7, S7 edge, Note5, S6 edge+, S6, S6 edge
HTC officially unveiled its device, Vive, during its Mobile World Congress keynote on March 1, 2015. They are still processing preorders and will be shipping shortly. Vive has a refresh rate of 90 Hz, requiring content to be rendered at 90 frames-per-second. The device uses two screens, one per eye, each having a resolution of 1080×1200. The device uses more than 70 sensors including a MEMS gyroscope, accelerometer and laser position sensors, and is said to operate in a 15 feet by 15 feet (4.5 by 4.5 meters) tracking space if used with the “Lighthouse” base station.Lighthouse system was designed by Alan Yates and use simple photosensors on any object that needs to be captured, this is combined with two, to avoid occlusion problems, lighthouse stations that sweep structured light lasers within a space. The front-facing cameras allow the software to identify any moving or static objects in a room. It’s part of the “Chaperone” safety system to prevent and warn users of hitting an obstacle (an object, or a wall). Thanks to the cameras, SteamVR will map, model your room and the room configuration can be saved.
Valve has released its OpenVR software development kit (SDK), an updated version of its Steamworks VR API with documentation and examples of how to build software that supports SteamVR hardware. It provides support for the HTC Vive Developer Edition, including the SteamVR controller and Lighthouse.
On April 30, 2015, Epic Games announced support for Valve’s SteamVR technology, allowing developers to create VR projects with Unreal Engine 4 for the HTC Vive. Epic said that SteamVR is completely integrated into Unreal Engine 4 across Blueprint visual scripting and native code, meaning projects can be built without being dependent on programmer support if needed. Epic’s own Showdown tech demo can already be experienced on SteamVR using the Vive headset. jMonkeyEngine, a free cross-platform 3D engine, is also getting support for OpenVR & the HTC Vive.
- PRECISION TRACKING: 32 headset sensors for 360° motion tracking
- FORM-FITTING COMFORT: Adjustable headset strap provides balanced comfort for extended use
- VISUAL IMMERSION: 110° field of view for captivating immersion
- REAL-WORLD AWARENESS: Front-facing camera blends real-world elements into the virtual world
- FEAST YOUR EYES: 2160 x 1200 combined resolution and 90 Hz refresh rate deliver eye-popping graphics and smooth action
- ADJUSTABLE EASE: Interchangeable foam inserts and nose pads provide customized comfort – fits most glasses
- NAVIGATE NATURALLY: Multi-function trackpad provides effortless precision and HD haptic feedback
- REMARKABLE GAME PLAY: Dual-stage triggers with HD haptic feedback bring VR experiences to a new level
- SEAMLESS INTERACTION: Two handheld controllers each have 24 sensors for accurate motion tracking
- 360° OF AWESOME: Two base stations deliver 360° motion tracking for superior VR experiences
- SIMPLY SYNCED: Base stations sync wirelessly and only require a power cable (not pictured)
- RECOMMENDED PC SPECS:GPU: NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 970 / AMD Radeon™ R9 290 equivalent or greater CPU: Intel® i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater RAM: 4GB+ Video Output: HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer USB Port: 1x USB 2.0 or greater port Operating System: Windows 7 SP1 or newer
CONTENT LIBRARY – Through Steam, there is a massive VR library building for Vive.
The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality head-mounted display developed by Oculus VR and was just released in March 2016, making it one of the first consumer-targeted virtual reality headsets. Oculus has described it as “the first really professional PC-based VR headset”. It has a resolution of 1080×1200 per eye, a 90 Hz refresh rate, and a wide field of view. It has integrated headphones which provide spatialised audio. The Rift has full 6 degrees of freedom, rotational and positional tracking. The positional tracking is performed by a separate tracking unit, which is included with each Rift and normally sits on the user’s desk. This system allows for using the Rift while sitting, standing, or walking around the same room.
The Rift is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Whether you’re stepping into your favorite game, watching an immersive VR movie, jumping to a destination on the other side of the world, or just spending time with friends in VR, you’ll feel like you’re really there. The Rift uses state of the art displays and optics designed specifically for VR. Its high refresh rate and low-persistence display work together with its custom optics system to provide incredible visual fidelity and an immersive, wide field of view. The Rift’s advanced display technology combined with its precise, low-latency constellation tracking system enables the sensation of presence – the feeling as though you’re actually there. The magic of presence changes everything. You’ve never experienced immersion like this.
Video is sent to the Oculus Rift via HDMI, with an optional DVI adapter for laptops and newer graphics cards. It also includes USB, which carries data and power to the device via a relatively light 10-foot cable and allows peripherals to be connected at the headset.
Oculus tracking technology – happens through a discreet and black small pole which sends continual feedback of the user’s whereabouts to the system. Infrared LEDs embedded in the headset are then tracked by a wireless sensor in the Constellation Tracking System. The addition of LEDS into the rear of the Oculus Rift now offers users full 360 degree perspective. A focal dial integrated into the headset lets you adjust the lenses to suit your interocular distance – essentially, it lets you match the Oculus to however close or far away from each other your eyes are and has been designed to allow wearing many style of glasses inside the headset without discomfort.
Oculus includes an Adjacent Reality Tracker which features a magnetometer, a gyroscope and an accelerometer, all of which combine to accurately track the Rift across all dimensional movement at speeds of up to 1,000 times a second and note all head movements.
Use of Head-Related Transfer Function (HRTF) tech, combined with the Rift’s head tracking allows Rift developers to immerse users “sonically in a virtual world, surrounded by realistic sounds in all directions.”
Per Oculus, “HRTFs simulate the changes to a sound when it reaches your head from a point in space. It does this by referencing data that represents changes that would happen to a sound coming from that direction. There is data for hundreds of points around your head, and the software smooths the audio between those points for a natural sound, regardless of head or sound source position.” Despite their attention to 3D sound, Oculus still allows you to swap out the existing headphones for ones of your own. Either way, the 3D sound is stellar.
The Oculus partnership with Microsoft added a wireless Xbox One controller with every Rift, plus the ability to play a selection of existing 2D games in the 3D setting. It also means that Windows 10 compatibility is built-in, giving developers the opportunity to generate VR experiences in Windows.
With all of the attention on Windows, PCs, and PS operating systems…. you can only begin to wonder what Apple is doing with this vast unserved marketshare of its users.
Missing the date of the initial shipment of units, but well on their way to rolling out are the two wireless controllers called Oculus Touch, which provide the end user with a more immersive VR experience. Their choice to delay the release of these controllers could push the value of the controllers back considerably as game developers wrote them out of their initial versions of product release to time with the release of the Oculus platform.
Oculus Home, the master control center of this platform, lets the user view check on content, games, enemies, friends and much more. It will be used for chat and interconnectivity as well.
DISPLAY: 2160 x 1200 pixel, 90 Hz built-in OLED displays
REFRESH RATE: 90 Hz
FIELD OF VIEW:110º or greater
SENSORS: Adjacent Reality Tracker, featuring a magnetometer, a gyroscope and an accelerometer
FOCAL ADJUSTMENT: Yes
INTERPUPILLARY DISTANCE COVERAGE: Default Distance set at 64mm
PHYSICAL USER INTERFACE: XBox Controller, Oculus Touch Controllers
CONNECTION: HDMI 1.3 video output to headset-2x USB 3.0 ports for peripherals
RECOMMENDED PC SPECIFICATION:
- Graphic Card: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
- CPU: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
- Memory: 8GB+ Ram
- Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
- USB Ports: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
- OS: Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer
CONTENT LIBRARY: The content library is packed with dynamic Virtual Reality opportunities such as Valkyrie, Chronos, Air Mech Command and much more.
SONY PLAYSTATION VR
Shipping in October, 2016, Sony’s PlayStation VR is a Full HD 1920 x 1080 display, recently increased from 5.0 inches to 5.7-inches, giving it a 100-degree field of vision. It also features RGB subpixels, which considerably help smooth out the image.
The refresh rate was just upgraded, which now runs at a 120Hz instead of 60Hz – higher than both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive’s 90Hz. Despite the fact that early games won’t natively run at 120 FPS – the PlayStation4’s reprojection software will insert digitally created inbetween frames “tweens” between every frame to make it feel like they are, an adding an even deeper sense of reality with this headset.
The head-tracking LEDs on the unit have increased from six to nine, combined with the halving of latency times, which eliminate lag.
It is reportedly comfortable, given that a majority of the unit’s weight rests on the top of your head, and it’s even usable when you’re wearing glasses, which is rare in VR headsets. The quick-release button makes it easy to get on and off, and the aesthete of the design is very nice.
- VR headset: Approx. 187×185×277 mm (width × height × length, excludes largest projection, headband at the shortest)
- Processor unit: Approx. 143×36×143 mm (width × height × length, excludes largest projection)
- VR headset: Approx. 610g (excluding cable)
- Processor unit: Approx. 365g
DISPLAY: 1920×RGB×1080 (960×RGB×1080 per eye), 5.7 inches, OLED
REFRESH RATE: 120 Hz, 90 Hz
FIELD OF VIEW: Approximately 100º
SENSORS: Six-axis motion sensing system (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer)
- DualShock 4 gamepad for many games
- PlayStation Move wand controllers to simulate hands
- PlayStation Camera to track everything
- VR headset: HDMI, AUX, Stereo Headphone Jack
- Processor unit: HDMI TV, HDMI PS4, USB, HDMI, AUX
PROCESSOR UNIT FUNCTION: 3D audio processing, Social Screen (mirroring mode, separate mode), Cinematic mode
- VR headset × 1
- Processor unit × 1
- VR headset connection cable × 1
- HDMI cable × 1
- USB cable × 1
- Stereo headphones × 1 (with a complete set of earpiece)
- AC power cord × 1
- AC adaptor × 1
GALLERY: The most promising gaming library for VR appears to be on the PlayStation VR, including their recent coup, securing the rights to Star Wars™Battlefront™ gaming experience and games like PlayStation®VR Worlds, Golem, and RIGS Mechanized Combat League.