While VR is obviously here to stay, sales of VR headsets have been nowhere near erstwhile projections. While the PlayStationVR sold one million copies in the first year from its launch, the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift didn’t do near as well.
And that said, everyone is asking the obvious question…
Is virtual reality going to expand – or fail? (opens in a new window)
The VR market is still rather young, and consumers seem to be taking a cautious approach towards whether they buy a virtual reality headset or not.
At the moment, those purchasing the headsets are fans of new technologies, and – of course – gamers.
Last year, Mark Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook was looking at a market horizon that would continue to expand for at least 10 years, and that profitability would probably not be seen in the first phase of that decade.
However, in reality his company has made a giant step forward in bringing VR within reach of everyone with the release of the Oculus Go, one of the most cost-effective headsets on the market, and one which makes a breakthrough in VR rendering with the new foveated rendering.
The development of foveated rendering is especially crucial, since even the most state-of-the-art computers have been unable to deliver in VR the high-end graphics that gamers are used to.
However, with the new foveated rendering techniques, high-resolution graphics are rendered wherever the user’s eye is looking at, allowing for high-end graphical rendering within the same computer specifications.
Foveated rendering imitates the action of the human eye. In many ways, this is actually the breakthrough that VR has been waiting for.
When you add that to the fact that not only is the Oculus Go one of the cheapest headsets on the market, but that the prices of the Oculus Rift, the PlayStation VR and the HTC Vive are steadily dropping, you see that the main objection to VR, the high price, is being removed.
So what are we to look forward to in virtual reality this year?
Increasing resolutions, lower prices, and an ever-increasing array of games and applications for virtual reality. While we may not see a billion sales of virtual reality headsets, the PlayStation VR is bound to add at least a million sales this year to the number of headsets SONY has already sold, and with dropping prices the Rift and Vive should also sell extremely well.
So, is VR worth it?
It certainly is. At its lowest price yet, VR is certainly worth buying into in 2018.
A world in virtual reality
The fact that VR gaming is expanding so exponentially is just the tip of the iceberg. The military are intensifying their use of VR in training, the medical fraternity is using VR not only to train people but even conduct sensitive operations.
Companies around the world are latching on to the relatively low-cost training opportunities that VR provides. Real estate dealers show clients around in VR, while furniture firms use VR to let you see just how a piece of furniture will look in your home before you buy it.
Windows Mixed Reality
No exploration of the future of VR would be complete without taking a look at mixed reality headsets. There are good many of them available from companies that include Acer, HP, Lenovo, Dell and Asus.
All these headsets meet the criteria set down by Microsoft, meaning that they all offer resolutions of 2880 x 1440 pixels and a field of view of 105 degrees. The refresh rate goes up to 90 Hz, which means that these headsets can be used without any threat of motion sickness.
All mixed reality headsets come with two mixed reality motion controllers, which are wireless.
Most of these headsets are relatively cheap and are the first in the wave of the future, where people regularly do things in virtual reality that are now done with a mouse and keyboard.
This can include using apps and mixed reality experiences that allow for sculpting in virtual reality, educational programs, employee training and much more.
Windows Mixed Reality has the greatest potential to bring all the benefits of virtual reality to everyday life.
The Oculus Rift
In 2018 the Oculus Rift remains one of the best headsets on the market, with its dual screens delivering a resolution of 1080 x 1200 pixels to each eye, which comes to a total of 2160 x 1200 pixels in all. It has a refresh rate of 90 Hz.
While the Oculus Rift was launched in early 2016 for 699 euros, those prices have dropped drastically in the last two years.
The package actually includes not only the controllers but a selection of six games as well.
Is the Oculus Rift worth buying?
Costs have fallen, and the Rift still provides some of the best experiences of virtual reality on the market today. The catalogue of brilliant games and experiences just keeps growing, and the immersion is legendary.
If you have any doubts as to the quality of the experiences provided, check out these examples below…
Lone Echo – to challenge the laws of gravity
Created by Ready At Dawn Studio, Lone Echo is an adventure game that takes place in the 22nd century. You play as an android serving in space, in a space station in orbit around Saturn. An anomaly then occurs not far from the station, and the captain of the station and yourself have to together repair the damage suffered by the station.
A patchwork of rather disparate tools will allow you to identify damage and fix the station.
Beyond a scenario worthy of the best sci-fi movies, Lone Echo stands out for gameplay that takes advantage of the virtual reality environment like no other game. Indeed, since the game takes place in zero gravity, you can move around with thrusters placed in your back or on your wrist, or by propelling yourself forward with your arms.
The game fully exploits the Oculus Touch controllers and has a very dynamic and enjoyable multiplayer mode. This is certainly one of the top VR games this year.
This first-person shooter is by Epic Games of Unreal Tournament and Gears of War fame. It offers innovative and very enjoyable gameplay in an environment filled with killer robots.
With amazing graphics and some very original game mechanics, Robo Recall has been able to fully exploit the Oculus Touch controllers for an experience that is certainly on par with anything else in VR at the moment.
The Climb is a very innovative and ultra immersive climbing VR game developed by Crytek, famous for their CryEngine graphics engine.
The game offers three different environments that are reminiscent of the Alps, Halong Bay in Vietnam, or the Grand Canyon.
Not only does the game provide a realistic climbing experience, but it is a welcome departure from the run-of-the-mill slew of shooters that seem to be the staple of virtual reality.
Marvel Powers United
While this game hasn’t been released, it is due to be released later this year and is a title that VR enthusiasts are really looking forward to.
Previews of the game show a cast of heroes that includes the Hulk, Captain Marvel and Rocket Racoon. Other playable characters on the website show Deadpool, Ronan the Accuser, Crystal, Black Bolt, Thor and Loki. A must-buy for any Marvel fan.
The HTC Vive
Born of a collaboration between HTC and Valve, the Vive is considered by many to be the most intuitive and immersive headset on the market today.
The resolutions match those of the Oculus Rift, and the headset comes with two wireless controllers.
While HTC Vive was originally offered at a price of 899 euros, you can now purchase it for 699 euros at most resellers.
To buy, or not to buy?
The Vive is a premium VR experience. With prices falling as the company competes with other headsets on the market, this headset now offers exceptional value for money and exceptional immersion in virtual reality.
Buy the Vive, and enter the domain of virtual reality in the best way possible.
Note that this price includes a free trial at Viveport, the in-house app store. The free trial will allow a user to select five titles each month from a vast game catalogue. But just how good are those games? Judge for yourself. Here are some of the most interesting titles for the HTC Vive…
Blade Runner 9732
A Belgian programmer called Quentin Lengele has just brought to reality something that has been the dream of many Blade Runner fans. He’s managed to recreate the entire Deckard apartment in virtual reality.
This app will plunge you into the cyberpunk atmosphere of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, reproducing the smallest details of Deckard’s apartment, from the Venetian blinds to the dust that hangs in the air.
Look out of the window at a futuristic dystopian landscape, or enjoy Vangelis’ music inside the apartment.
Unbound is a 3D construction program that allows you to create interesting objects in 3D with your friends.
The app allows the basics of a new creation to be worked out quickly and easily before details are added. Objects you create here can easily be exported to the 3D programs that you normally use, or even 3D printed.
BlackShield – Upora story
BlackShield – Upora story is a wonderfully detailed virtual reality shooter.
The depth perception in VR and the excellent soundscape make this an engrossing and immersive VR experience.
If you’ve ever thought that meditating in a forest would be extremely relaxing then Shinrin-Yoku is the experience for you.
In this wonderful expression of virtual reality, you can wander around a forest in the North-West, and experience the relaxing effects of the verdant tree canopy while exploring and interacting with the animals and plants around you.
The experience is available at different times of the day in virtual reality, including at night. Best of all, Shinrin-Yoku is entirely for free.
The SONY PlayStation VR
SONY’s PSVR may not provide the best quality VR experience today, but the PSVR is undoubtedly the most successful virtual reality system on the market. The reasons for this are numerous.
Firstly, the PSVR sells to an audience that is already enthusiastic about the PlayStation. Secondly, SONY’s approach to virtual reality was, up to now, considerably cheaper than other options on the market, and moreover, allows people who do not possess a high-performance PC to get started in virtual reality at a much lower cost.
Do remember though that you’ll need a PlayStation camera for your PSVR to work
The PSVR offers slightly lower resolutions than the headsets we mentioned earlier, with a resolution of just about 960 x 1080 for each eye, giving a combined resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The PSVR does offer a refresh rate of 90 Hz, which can be pushed to 120 Hz in cinema mode. The field of vision of this headset is about 100 degrees.
Is the PSVR worth buying into?
The PSVR is the ultimate gamer’s VR headset. If you want a vast selection of diverse content that is regularly updated with new and interesting games, the PSVR is the way to go. If virtual reality to you means gaming in three dimensions, playing games with a realism and immersion that’s impossible outside VR, then the PSVR is the way to go.
So what are the games actually like?
There is lots of lovely content for the PSVR, and among the best of all the available games is…
Resident Evil 7
I’m sure that anyone who is familiar with the Resident Evil series isn’t surprised that we list it here as one of the best games to play in virtual reality. If you play Resident Evil 7 on the PSVR, you’ll never want to play a horror first-person shooter on a monitor screen ever again.
Resident Evil 7 mixes the horror and action game genres perfectly, to create a unique virtual reality adventure experience.
The Solus Project
The Solus Project might disappoint people in the beginning, because the game mechanics take a little while to figure out. However, after you play it for a few hours, you realize just how much this game has to offer.
Firstly, it’s one of the few open world games in virtual reality today. You can explore every nook and cranny of a mysterious planet, including its gigantic labyrinthine caves. The game offers changing weather conditions, from exuberant sunshine to deadly storms. The weather effects are brilliantly realistic, and the tornadoes will terrify you.
The game has a fantastic sound which allows for even more immersion. With its latest patch, the graphics quality of the Solus project has become nothing short of exceptional.
While it is rather commonplace in terms of gameplay and environments as compared to many other first-person shooters that share the genre, Far Point is one of the most completely immersive first-person shooters in virtual reality.
The fact that it is compatible with the aim controller adds to unique worth of the Far Point experience. Far Point is roughly like living the movie Starship Troopers.
Rush of Blood
Rush of Blood was one of the first games that took full advantage of the VR immersion and of the capabilities of the PSVR.
It has long levels strung with enemies, and, of course, as you progress through the game, those enemies become more numerous and more varied.
This is the game that will have you wishing there was more when you get to the end of it.
Those are some of the top VR headsets on the market, and, as you’ve just seen, the range of content for virtual reality keeps increasing with new releases every quarter. Graphics quality is also becoming very true-to-life, and exceptionally immersive.
Nevertheless, there are some exceptional new advances in virtual reality that we must take a look at. Among the most important of these is…
The Future – Pimax 5K/8K
This Chinese headset is what the future of VR is going to look like. The Pimax offers a groundbreaking resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.
The field of vision in this prototype headset is 200 degrees, which is an absolutely astonishing improvement. The Pimax does not have VR-based controllers, and a person’s movements are not tracked via external sensors, but rather via gyroscopes integrated within the headset. However, it might take a while until this technology becomes stable enough for mass market use, especially in light of the most recent news about refresh rate problems.
While Pimax 4K is hardly a recommended buy at the moment, the Kickstarter campaign for 5K/8K headsets shows you how fast VR technology is advancing. A virtual future on our doorstep.