2016 is a big year for Virtual Reality. Some giant tech firms, backed by game studios, are placing huge bets in this space. And when there are companies of the likes of Apple, Facebook, and Sony are there, you can expect some big news and launch events round the year.
If you were on a digital-world sabbatical, let me tell you that virtual reality is an immersive computer-simulated environment with which a user interact. Many people have a myth that Microsoft HoloLens is a VR headset, but the fact is- in contrast with VR headsets, HoloLens doesn’t cut you off from the real-world but projects holograms in a 3-D environment of the real world. You can still roam around wearing the headsets which is definitely not recommended when you have a VR headset on. Hence, I am keeping HoloLens out of the league.
The Key Players of Visual Reality
The list of fierce competitors boils down to 4-5 key players, including Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive, Samsung Gear, and Sony Playstation (Project Morpheus). Apple is rumored to be eyeing this space as the Cupertino company roped in a few big names working in the field of VR. Samsung Gear is definitely going to be first smartphone-powered VR headset (if we don’t include Google Cardbox – a pretty barebone, but extremely cheap, VR headset made of cardbox). I am sure Samsung would not like to repeat smartwatch story of having come up with an innovative product first, falling short on expectations and hype, and as a result Apple getting the limelight even after arriving late at the scene.
Oculus Rift, Vive and Sony PlayStation VR
Facebook, HTC and Sony PlayStation have different plans in place. All three are not self-contained units and require a powerful PC (Sony Playstation VR will work with Play Station 4) with high-end graphic card to function. This is a big problem.
If your PC is not meant for gaming and lacks in powerful graphic card, high-end processor and a good RAM, VR gaming may set you back by $1500. Oculus rift costs approx. $600 dollars. HTC hasn’t officially declared the price tag of Vive but it is expected to be above $500. Games PCs cost to the tune of $1000. Out maths is correct!
Gaming history never really suggests the good fortune for devices priced above $400 as far as the examples of Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 3 are concerned. Gamer community is never known to be among most affluent.
On the other hand, Sony PlayStation lovers have reasons to be delighted. Sony’s VR headset will need PlayStation 4, and possibly its future variants as well, to function. So if you have PlayStation 4, all you need to do is buy its Sony’s VR headgear, connect it to your gaming console, and you’re good to go. Also, Sony owns many game studios so you can expect to play a number of VR supported titles.
Samsung Gear is a Bit Different
Samsung aims at making its smartphone powerful enough, in terms of processing speed required to render heavy use of graphics, and mount it on headsets to give the experience of VR to smartphone users. Definitely, Samsung is positioned to offer Virtual Reality at a much attractive price.
The smartphones can nowhere match the gaming capabilities of PCs, but if the company offers VR supported handsets with competitively priced headgear, it will make a perfect recipe of success.
Who’s The Winner?
Sony PlayStation’s VR lies in between Gear and Rift in terms of performance but here also the price will make a difference. Sony has already sold more than 30 million PS4 consoles. The entry barrier is very low for PS 4 users.
Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are costly as a package (headgear + powerful computer). They are also very powerful ones, but I suspect that the number of takers would not be many, especially in the first few months of launch. As the technology and VR games improve, there could be more and more demand for high-performing headgear.
In the foreseeable future, Samsung seems to be a more popular choice for gamers waiting to get their hands on virtual reality. The impatient and passionate gamers may shell out a few hundred dollars extra to get the best of the lot, Oculus Rift.