Virtual reality has made a pretty big leap in the last few years and we are finally nearing the point where it would actually be worthwhile to purchase a headset that uses the increasingly popular technology. With more and more companies – including some pretty big names – jumping on the VR bandwagon all the time, things are starting to look promising as the selection of available headsets keeps growing by the day. Not every VR headset is worth your money mind you, but at least a few of the ones that are coming out in 2016 are sure to catch your eye. In no particular order, let’s take a look at what’s on the virtual reality horizon this year.
The Oculus Rift is the most well-known VR headset out there and it’s finally coming out later this year. Even though the development kit has been around for quite a while, the consumer version of the headset is only scheduled to start shipping in late March. The Oculus Rift would have been the go-to choice for many people in the market for a good VR headset, however, the announcement regarding the $600 price tag made earlier this month at CES makes things a bit more complicated. Do you go for the premium-priced Oculus Rift or settle for a lesser known but more affordable product?
A drawback of the Oculus Rift is that you need a pretty good machine in order to make good use of it. But assuming that won’t be a problem, this would definitely make for a worthwhile investment. In addition to the headset itself, pre-ordering an Oculus Rift will also get you a remote, an Xbox One controller, and copies of EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale. May have been better to leave out the extra stuff and just give us the headset by itself at a lower price, but I guess we’ll just have to take what we can get.
A good alternative to the Oculus Rift will be Sony’s recently rebranded headset, which many still refer to as Project Morpheus. The PlayStation VR seems a bit more inaccessible to a lot of people given that it was designed with PS4 compatibility in mind, but at the same time, it will end up being more affordable than an Oculus Rift given that a console is cheaper than a high-end gaming PC. Having said that, Sony has not made an official announcement in regards to the price so we can only speculate on how much it will end up costing consumers to get everything needed to jump into virtual reality. A few days ago a listing on Amazon Canada was claiming that the PlayStation VR would be available for roughly $800, however, Sony claims this was a mistake and that the headset doesn’t have an official price just yet.
If we are to believe Oculus VR founder Palmer Lucky, the PlayStation VR ” isn’t quite as high-end” as the Rift, but it is still “a good headset”. Luckey also doesn’t seem too worried about this upcoming competitor because he believes Sony is targeting a different market, which may or may not be the case depending on who else you ask. Either way, the PlayStation VR sounds like an interesting choice if you’re looking for a VR headset this year and we’re likely to hear more about the price soon enough as the device is scheduled to launch sometime during the first half of 2016 according to Sony.
Another no-mobile virtual reality headset that’s coming out this year is the result of a partnership between HTC and Valve, with the end result going by the name of HTC Vive. The Vive was officially unveiled less than a year ago at MWC, but it looks like the two companies have made quite a bit of progress since then because the second developer kit was already announced earlier this month and the consumer version will be ready to make its first appearance in April. Strangely enough, pre-orders for the headset will begin as soon as February 29, however, the price is still unknown as of this writing.
What makes the HTC Vive stand out from the crowd is its integration with Valve’s Steam gaming platform. Given that every respectable PC gamer is already using Steam, it’s pretty safe to assume that there will be no shortage of people to try and sell the device to. After all, gamers are already happy with the services provided by Valve over the years and they will surely be thrilled to play games in virtual reality right on their favorite platform. Granted, Valve’s recent hardware products like the Steam Machine and Steam Controller are still leaving a lot to be desired, but luckily for them (and us), Taiwanese tech giant HTC has proven time and time again that it knows what it’s doing when it comes to developing good hardware. The HTC Vive headset looks like the result of a match made in Heaven, though we’ll still need to wait for the price tag before we can call this a good investment.
Many of us use Windows-powered PCs so why not use a Windows-powered headset as well? The Microsoft HoloLens is a bit different when compared to similar devices because it makes use of both virtual reality and augmented reality. The results can be pretty spectacular judging by the demos presented by Microsoft last year, however, the price tag is pretty spectacular as well, and not in a good way. The headset will end up costing no less than $3,000 when it launches later this year. Admittedly, that’s the price for the Development Edition and you apparently have to complete an application if you want to get your hands on it.
But while the price is a bit steep for the average person, the Microsoft HoloLens has plenty to offer for those who are looking to experience some very promising new technologies. You also won’t have to worry about connecting the headset to a PC or console because the HoloLens comes with built-in battery and runs on the Windows 10 operating system. Unlike most other VR headset manufacturers, gaming doesn’t seem to be a priority for Microsoft as the HoloLens allows you to play with your surrounding and transform everything around you into your very own game. Naturally, developers will make many video games for the HoloLens in time, it would be a shame not to.
VR headsets that require a mobile device
I’m not a big fan of these but it’s definitely worth taking them into consideration if you want to experience virtual reality for the first time. For one, headsets that require a mobile device are considerably less expensive than their more autonomous brethren and you can already find plenty of games and applications for them. Google Cardboard was a pretty interesting first attempt at making the technology more widely accessible but now we have much better-looking devices that make good use of it.
The already decent selection of said headsets is about to get a little bit bigger in 2016 with the release of products such as the Vrana Totem, CMOAR, Impression Pi, FOVE, VisusVR, Avegant Glyph and more. The prices tend to differ quite a bit based on design, hardware and features so at least consumers don’t have to worry about the lack of variety. On the contrary, a lot of companies both big and small are showing a great deal of interest in this emerging trend. The VR headsets we had up until this point haven’t been all that impressive if we’re being honest, but it looks like 2016 will be the year when all of that is going to change.