About where the virtual reality industry is heading today, what trends prevail, and which modern VR helmet is best for you, Immersense will talk in this article.
It will be correct to begin the review with the technological landscape of all VR helmets that are already available on the market or announced for release in 2019. Below are all the prominent manufacturers and their current products. About some models that have not yet been released, we know very little, so this article will be supplemented as they appear on the market.
Where does the VR industry go in 2019
Mobile VR is dying
The cardboard box with the Google Cardboard lenses, where the smartphone is inserted for the most primitive VR experience, is no longer interesting to anyone. Slightly more advanced Daydream and Gear VR systems with simple controllers also gradually go down in history, since they require an expensive smartphone and therefore lose in price to the Oculus Go standalone helmet for $ 199.
Standalone VR grows
Devices that do not require either a smartphone or a computer for immersion in VR, appeared last year. And in May 2019, the most expected Oculus Quest helmet with 6 degrees of freedom (DoF) at the stated price of $ 399 will be released at the market. This has caused other manufacturers to speed up with the upgrade of their 3 DoF devices. This year we will see Vive Focus Plus, Lenovo Mirage Solo and Pico Neo with full 6 DoF controllers on the market.
Desktop VR got 2nd generation
Even at CES 2018, HTC introduced a new helmet Vive Pro, which set a new bar for image quality in the VR glasses market. To keep up with the leader, Oculus released an updated model of the Rift S, and on the Windows MR platform appeared the Samsung Odyssey + and HP Reverb.
Inside-out tracking develops
For the classic technology of tracking points in space, external wired sensors are used, which complicates the setup. Last year, 6 Windows MR-based models appeared with inside-out tracking technology, when cameras built into the helmet scan the surrounding space. In the 2019th, this technology was picked up by the Oculus Rift S and the HTC Cosmos.
Ok, now that we’ve dealt with the hierarchy of VR helmets and trends in the market, it’s time to move on to the models that it makes sense to pay attention to in 2019.
Helmets with integrated processor, do not require PC connection
Oculus Go appeared on the market in May 2018 as a junior model in the Oculus lineup. With a price of just $ 199 for a model with 32 GB of internal memory, Go still remains an attractive solution for exploring VR.
The disadvantages of the device include not the most powerful processor and only 3 degrees of freedom. This means that in this helmet you can only look around you, but not move around the room.
The Oculus Go rival is the Chinese Pico G2 4K helmet with the best resolution of 3840 × 2160 pixels, however it is available only for corporate orders.
Suitable for: home use, 360 ° video viewing, simple games and experiences.
HTC Vive Focus Plus is an upgrade from last year’s Vive Focus. If before the helmet was intended solely for the corporate segment, now the company is also relying on entertainment content. And it is assumed that with the development of 5G, users will be able to play “heavy” games by air. Focus Plus will be sold in 25 countries, not only in China, as it was originally with the first model.
The helmet finally got full 6DoF controllers and new lenses.
However, at the stated price of $ 800 it will be quite difficult for him to compete with Oculus Quest ($ 399) in the consumer market and Pico Neo ($ 750) in the corporate one.
Suitable for: exhibitions and presentations with a demonstration of the average complexity of content and games.
Oculus Quest, formerly known as Santa Cruz, will be officially launched at the annual Facebook conference in early May. It will occupy a logical niche in the Oculus line between Go and Rift S. Connection to a PC is not required, and orientation in space is due to 4 built-in cameras. If you do not take into account the Chinese Shadow VR, then it is Oculus Quest will be the first standalone device on the market with 6 degrees of freedom. This means that it will be free to walk around the room without any wires. Oculus is working on cross-platform synchronization, but it is already known that not all “hard” games under the Rift S will be launched on Quest. Developers will have to “degrade” them for lower processor performance in the latter.
Suitable for: work and home use, universal wireless solution at affordable price.
PC Connection Helmets for Demonstrating Complex Content
HTC Vive Cosmos was first introduced at CES 2019, and so far not much is known about it. Most likely, the helmet will be able to connect not only to the PC, but also to the smartphone, which makes it a kind of hybrid Mobile / Desktop VR. Cosmos will be equipped with four cameras for positioning in space and tracking two controllers with 6 DoF. The design allows you to fold the visor up without removing the helmet from the head, which is quite convenient. HTC promises to provide Cosmos with the “best screen in history.” Well, we will look forward to the announcement of the technical characteristics and prices of the new device.
Suitable for: games at home and in VR clubs, thanks to the ease of connection and use
HP Reverb is the second generation of VR helmets from this manufacturer. And if the first model was not particularly different from its counterparts in the Windows MR platform, then Reverb clearly relied on image quality. The screen resolution in 4K is one of the best on the market and loses only to highly specialized Pimax devices, which will be discussed below. Traditionally, Windows MR uses an inside-out tracking system; accordingly, no external sensors need to be installed.
The disadvantages include only two cameras for orientation in space, which can lead to loss of tracking controllers, for example, if you raise your hands on your head.
Demonstrations of complex renders, for example in architecture or medicine, as well as games, wherever without them.
Samsung Odyssey +, like HP Reverb, is an update from last year’s model (without the “plus” prefix). The physical resolution of the screen has not changed, but Samsung claims that it has made an improvement in the image programmatically.
The advantages and disadvantages are similar to Reverb’s – tracking from the inside, but the possible loss of controllers if they are out of sight of the two cameras.
In general, the helmet is a strong middle peasant in its segment, and frequent discounts on Amazon for $ 100 and more make it an attractive choice for purchase in 2019.
Suitable for: work and entertainment, universal solution.
Oculus Rift S is an updated version of one of the most popular models on the market from a recognized industry leader (Oculus is part of Facebook). Revolutionary changes have occurred. The main difference from the old Rift is the rejection of external sensors in favor of the inside-out tracking system, thanks to two built-in cameras.
Improvements include new lenses, an increased screen resolution, and a nimbus-type mounting system on the head — all this should make the experience of using a helmet even more comfortable.
The disadvantage is the lack of physical adjustment of the distance between the lenses (there is only software) and the reduced refresh rate of the screen at 80 Hz (against 90Hz in the usual Rift).
Suitable for: work and entertainment, a universal solution at an affordable price to retain leadership positions.
The Valve Index is a proprietary company that previously helped HTC launch its Vive, and also owns the world’s largest Steam store. Declared the highest on the market screen refresh rate at 120Hz and software enhanced image.
Branded controllers are able to recognize each finger, as well as the compression of the palm, which will allow you to take and release objects in VR. The helmet is compatible with external sensors and controllers from Vive. But if you don’t have those, the complete set will cost $ 999.
challenging home games and VR clubs.
HTC Vive Pro Eye was shown at CES 2019 with Cosmos. The helmet differs from last year’s model by the built-in eye tracking. First of all, this function is needed by developers, who thus can understand where the user is looking and improve the interface of their products. This technology also allows you to optimize the processor load, since you can only render the zone where the player’s gaze is directed, and not the entire scene.
Otherwise, this is all the same Vive Pro, a complete set of which will cost you $ 1500, which is quite a lot, considering the pricing of competitors.
Suitable for: developers and enthusiasts. Gaming clubs and VR attractions with sophisticated content upgrade with Vive Pro does not make sense.
Pimax 5K Plus has the widest viewing angle on the market – 200 °, which is almost twice the industry standard. This means that you practically will not see black stripes on the sides, wearing a helmet. Such a width of the picture is really impressive (the author tested the pre-production model personally). However, for this you have to sacrifice ergonomics – the helmet looks rather cumbersome on the head.
Interestingly, the Chinese company Pimax raised money for the production of its products on Kickstarter (just like the first helmet from Oculus long before Facebook took over), and therefore has an army of fans around the world. The helmet is compatible with controllers and external sensors from HTC, which will help to save, considering the total price tag of $ 1,658 for a native kit.
Suitable for: enthusiasts and artists who want to see the virtual world almost as widely as the real one.