Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles VR is almost upon us! We’ve all heard of the Oculus, the Vive, the CARDBOARD… but how do these contenders compare? The cheapest has to be Google Cardboard. It’s literally made of cardboard and can be printed out from templates online. However, you can buy one directly from Google for just $15, complete with eye-pieces. For the screen itself you’ll need a smartphone running either Android 4.1 or IOS 8.0. It must have a screen size of between 4 and 6 inches- though looking at reviews, 6 is recommended for a wider visible area and even then, can’t compare to the more expensive headsets. And don’t expect to be playing modern games on this device, either. You can download numerous different titles from the Google Play store, many of which are little more than gimmicks. There are 3D videos and pictures, with 3D Street View being a nice touch. Of course, there’s also a 3D rollercoaster experience. There are a couple of games featured, as well as bizarre and original ‘experiences’ that are best kept a surprise in this early stage of VR adoption. One I find most interesting is Beerbox which is an Augmented Reality experience that simulates being drunk. Although this is gimmicky, it shows the main advantage that devices such as the Cardboard have over more expensive ones: they’re portable and may end up being used more for AR than they are for games. Next up is the Samsung Gear VR, which is a combination between the Google Cardboard and the more expensive devices. It’s $100 for the shell and is powered by a Samsung phone, but the device is more strictly regulated than Google’s and has support from Oculus. What this means is that it will support the same things as the more expensive Oculus Rift, but is more limited by the phone’s processing power and lacks the motion tracking and controller support. This means that for now, most of the software is basic and gimmicky apart from a couple of flashy titles, but as hardware advances we’ll begin seeing today’s VR games trickle down to this device and you can be safe in the knowledge that it’s a well-supported machine. In conclusion, this device looks like the current best compromise for most people wanting VR today. Some games, like Eve Gunjack, look very impressive. However, don’t see the Gear VR as a miracle device. Overheating and fogging up are both problems and you’ll never manage the same level of immersion and polish as you can get from the more expensive products… which I’ll cover now. The Oculus Rift is the Daddy of this generation of VR devices, with roots as far back as 2011, where the then-18 year old Palmer Luckey developed a basic prototype in his parent’s garage. Say what you like about the politics behind this device, but VR’s adoption was certainly accelerated by the success of this kickstarter and the backing of big names such as John Carmack. It’s due out at the end of March 2016 for $600 and requires a powerful PC. This will put it out of reach of a lot of people, but those who can afford it will be treated to some of the best looking VR experiences possible. But don’t expect the best of them to be out on release day. Big names, like Crytek and Insomniac games, will be releasing their titles later and I expect these to be more polished, professional and complete experiences than existing tech demos. The success of VR gaming rests on these big titles and could change the gaming scene overnight. It’s apparently a very comfortable device, letting you adjust it to fit your face and has detachable headphones so you can choose to use your own if you’d rather. The HTC Vive shares a lot in common with the Oculus Rift, but has some important differences. Both devices have controllers to help navigate 3D worlds, but the Vive also uses lasers to track your movement about a room. It’s essentially the Nintendo Wii, requiring more space but opening up more opportunities than its rivals can. There’s a golf game that makes full use of this technology. It’s important to note that this device is backed by Valve, so expect a lot of Steam-games to support the Vive as well as Half Life 3. I went there. It also features a front-facing camera, something the Rift doesn’t and will hopefully stop you from running into stuff. Unlike the Rift, it doesn’t come with built-in headphones but instead ships with earbuds, though both devices will let you plug your own headphones if you’d rather. Whereas the rift costs $600, the Vive costs $800, making it the most expensive and will be released in early April, a week after the Oculus Rift. And lastly, the Playstation VR, previously known as Morpheus. This is the Playstation 4’s answer to Virtual Reality. Its resolution is about 20% lower than the Rift and Vive, but runs at 120 Hz instead of 90 for the PC headsets. The first games aren’t expected to run anywhere near to this amount though, and will instead rely on ‘tween’ frames which are created using information from the frame before and after to make more and to make the experience feel smoother. I predict that this will lead to small amounts of distortion on narrow, fast moving things such as ropes and swords and will add a small amount of delay if it borrows information from the next frame, but it should hide drops in frame-rate. Tekken, Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy will all support VR. The price hasn’t yet been announced- some sites have listed it at around $400, though another leaked that it would be $800. Long story short, we don’t know though clearly a lower price would help such a device to become mainstream and would give the Playstation 4 a huge advantage over the costly PC options. March 15th will be a big date for this device and will hopefully reveal a lot more. In conclusion, it’s a very exciting time for Virtual Reality. And no doubt the technology will mature quickly, rendering this video horribly obsolete and my speculation, childish and uninformed. I can’t wait.