My Impending VR Headset Purchase

The wait is almost over. Most of the vr headset companies out there plan to have a commercial product released in the last few months of 2015 or first quarter 2016. I have been so tempted to grab a dev kit in the past year but have held off as I don’t believe I will be doing anything with vr commercially and the consumer editions are likely to be different. That being said, I still am not sure which consumer edition(s) I will end up with when they do come out.

Samsung VR Gear:

I tried this just a few days after the innovator edition became available.  A new 99$ consumer edition is on its way this november 2015.  It is definitely amazing (as I expect all the vr products to be) but likely not nearly as capable as dedicated hardware. I was using it with the galaxy note. At the time there was not a lot of content available but the demos that were really showed the potential of the product. The main weakness that I could see was the phone. With prolonged use, the galaxy note was just not up to the task and would over heat. It made for a fun demonstration but probably not sufficient for anyone looking to view lots of vr content (like an entire movie). It definitely worked though. Since its release, google put out a design for a phone holder made of cardboard that does much the same thing. No-name chinese factories are churning out thousands of headsets already based on this design. At the end of the day, this route will never be anything but sub-par because of the phone. If producing vr content cooked a note 2, i can only imagine what it would do to my lg volt. I don’t think i will be using my phone for vr any more than i use it as a gaming device. However, some people will.

Oculus Rift:

This is the one that got the ball rolling. It looks to offer both proprietary content as well as compatibility with open source options. How much compatibility is the question. The company has recently partnered with microsoft as the xbox needed a vr option to compete with the one coming from the ps4 folks. While it may be nice to have for the pc, I have a playstation not an xbox. I am not counting on the open source capability being any more than a hack as it is now as they might find themselves in the market position of being able to stay proprietary. This xbox partnership makes this more likely.

Here are the oculus rift system requirements recently released.  Looks like even with my 770 gtx I am a bit behind.  I’m sure this is not just the oculus.  Basically this is saying, if you want to do vr right, you probably need a nasty graphics card.  I guess I will sli in another 770 and hope that does the trick

NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
2x USB 3.0 ports
Windows 7 SP1 or newer

SteamVR, HTC Hive:

This one looks interesting. I expect it to be released before the oculus and sony options. The steam market should make it a solid choice. Controllers are available and I can imagine there will be a lot of game support early on. Their api is open source but not sure how this relates to the osvr project. Technology wise, it includes positional tracking which I am not sure is the case with the other products. This is accomplished with “base stations” that allow tracking to the millimetre. It looks like it will have some very impressive technical specs over all.

Sony Morpheus, Playstation VR:

Project morpheus but now going as Playstation VR. This is likely to be just a solution for the gaming console at first. I would expect hacks allowing use with the pc to come out but Sony has historically worked hard to thwart hacking efforts. This is likely to be a great product like most stuff sony does. I just don’t know if it makes sense to spend 300-500 bucks on something that only works with the playstation.

Razer OSVR:

My favorite mouse and keyboard company is working hard on osvr which should develop in to the vr open source standard. You can now order something they call a hacker dev kit and it looks great. The company insists that they are just interested in making vr a reality and that their ultimate focus will be controllers.  Consistent with this statment, the headsets will be sold as kits and no consumer version has been announced or is planned. Different features such as infra-red tracking are modularized and optional. Ultimately, the design should be produced by a lot of different companies which will be great from a pricing standpoint. If the model works, it should offer quite an amazing alternative to closed source efforts like the Oculus.

Microsoft HoloLens:

This is a different type of product all together. Kindof a mix between vr and google glass. It looks like a neat idea, however, the winner here will be determined by the availability of content. Microsoft is big enough to force the issue but as seen with the windows phone, its not always enough.  Sometime by the end of this year you should be able to get a developer edition for around 3k… really $3000 bucks.  I’m out haha but i guess some companies will spring for it.  Don’t expect to see a consumer level product before july of 2016 though.


So far they seem to be staying out of this. Is the whole idea of vr beneath those that frequent the apple ecosystem? Who knows? What is certain is that if they do come up with a product, it will possess a feature or re-brand a feature in a way to make it seem unique. Consider the apple time machine which is a 2-3tb usb hard drive costing between 3-4 hundred bucks. Need I say more? Whatever they build will be completely proprietary no matter how late to market they are. Oh, and it will probably be white, cost over $600 and will become annoyingly prevalent at coffee shops in no time.

While I can’t say I will never toss my phone into a $20 holder and see how it does, I am definitely going to grab a dedicated headset some time soon. The only real options at the moment are the oculus, the htc/steam, morpheus(playstationvr) and razer’s osvr. Whether or not I at some time get the sony product depends totally on the content that is released. This will most definitely not be my first headset. Even if it is eventually capable of working with my pc and osvr or the hive stuff, this is likely months away and I won’t be able to wait. For xbox one owners, the oculus is probably a no brainer. If I did not have a game system already I might even be persuaded to go xbox given the fact the oculus should work with both it and the pc.  The xbox is without much argument technically inferior to the playstation and I am kindof glad I didn’t know when i was making that decision. Whether or not I consider the oculus then now depends on how proprietary it ends up being. I am fully expecting them to feel that their microsoft partnership is going to allow them to corner the market. It’s only fair, after all, wasn’t this whole thing their idea in the first place? I am already preparing myself to be irritated by this company and that’s not good 🙂 So, it looks like my first headset is coming from razer or htc. With these two, I will just have to wait and see. The steam marketplace is quite an advantage, however, both vendors are pursuing an open source route and there will likely be a lot of interoperability. Another thing consideration for me is that I primarily use linux. It will be interesting to see which of these products has the best initial linux support. This will not be important to most people of course but could really narrow things down for me. Price is not likely to be an issue as I expect both of these products to come in at around $300. Actually, the osvr stuff could end up much cheaper than this when produced by no-name factories later on in the year. It could even come down to a comparison of hardware specs or just which one becomes available first.

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