The most exciting glasses for virtual reality
The screaming can be heard from afar. Again and again. No wonder: the roller coaster suddenly falls into the ground. And who does not shriek when passing into free fall? Only this is not a roller coaster.
Samsung created the-almost-perfect illusion with its Gear VR virtual reality glasses at the CES electronics fair in Las Vegas. Even the chairs on which the” passengers ” take their seats move synchronously with the video, which passes before the eyes of the spectators. Only the wind is missing. And the feeling that the stomach rises upwards.
The largest consumer electronics show seeks to dispel any doubt that 2016 could not be the year in which virtual reality (VR) gets its decisive push forward.
Four hours waiting time at Oculus
And indeed, no matter where long queues form at CES: it’s always the VR presentations. Oculus, the pioneer of technology bought by Facebook for two billion dollars, is pushing it to the extreme in Las Vegas. If you want a demonstration of the glasses, stand in line for three to four hours at peak times to come out of the presentation room happy and with a big smile at the end.
Of course, one thing is to inspire trade visitors. But is this enough to attract” normal ” users? We have put Samsung’s VR glasses on the nose of several test subjects in recent weeks, including eight-year-old children and 80-year-old seniors. All of them were impressed, but this does not mean that they would spend several hundred euros on it.
In fact, virtual reality is not a cheap pleasure. A first impression is possible with the help of cardboard glasses for a few euros, into which a smartphone is inserted. But if you want a little more quality, you currently end up with Samsung’s Gear VR, which was developed in cooperation with Oculus.
Samsung glasses only with Samsung smartphones
The glasses cost 100 euros, but they only work with some more expensive Samsung smartphones that charge more than 500 euros. The glasses have a touchpad on the side that can be used to control some applications. The choice of games and videos for this solution is not very large, but already considerable and in any case impressive.
However, what was shown at CES and what will be launched in the coming months goes beyond that. Oculus itself has launched the pre-order for its glasses in Las Vegas, which will ship from the end of March. The glasses, called Oculus Rift, represent virtual reality much sharper than Samsung’s Gear VR.
But what is even more important: It comes with a small camera, which-once attached to the wall-can track the wearer of the glasses on a small area. Thus, in a virtual world, the user can not only turn his head to the side or lift it up. He can also move on a limited area, thus transferring this movement to the virtual world.
Oculus controllers delayed
Interaction is also possible. Oculus delivers its glasses with an Xbox controller. The originally planned controller pair Touch apparently did not finish on time. It should now be available in the second half of the year.
Unlike Samsung’s Gear VR, however, the Oculus Rift requires a powerful computer on which the applications run. The glasses are connected to the computer via a cable. However, few computers that are used today have the prerequisites to be able to deliver the elaborate graphics to the glasses.
This makes Oculus a costly pleasure. The glasses should cost almost 750 euros with shipping, more than observers had expected. In fact, an earlier developer version was already sold for 360 euros. But the consumer edition is more sophisticated and also has headphones and controllers. Together with a new computer, more than 1500 euros quickly come together for the start into the VR world.
HTC Vive still without price
Oculus ‘ main competitor is the Taiwanese manufacturer HTC with its Vive glasses, created in collaboration with the game developer Valve. HTC showed an improved version of its previous developer version in Las Vegas, but it has not yet been sold. Among other things, it has become lighter and has a camera on the front that allows users to perceive objects in the environment so as not to stumble over them.
The Vive is to be sold from April, HTC has not named a price at CES. It works the same way as the Oculus Rift, only with a computer connected to the glasses by cable.
However, users can move within a wider range. Two small so-called lighthouse scanners are mounted on the walls of a maximum 25 square meter room. These scanners detect the position of the wearer and the controllers he holds in his hands.
100 Games for Sony glasses in development
The experts were also impressed by the presentation of the Vive in Las Vegas: the controllers can be used to lift objects and carry them around. Users can move anywhere within the room and look at things from all sides in virtual reality. If you step too close to the wall, a blue grid will be displayed as a warning.
Sony is also working on glasses that will work together with the Playstation 4. At CES, the Japanese concern remained guilty of further details. Only so much: More than 100 games are in development for this. Sony’s advantage: so far, about 36 million Playstation 4 have been sold, with which the glasses, now called Playstation VR, would work.
A wide range of content for VR could end up being crucial to the success or failure of the technology. In fact, there is still a lot of experimentation going on here. Although the hardware manufacturers have almost got a grip on the dizziness of the users by an improved and largely delay-free image display, but what is really to be expected of the user will still be revealed.
Content producers experiment
Currently, no one is thinking of producing a complete movie for the glasses. Because VR is exhausting. Too much movement is unusual for the wearers of the glasses. Game developers and filmmakers therefore prefer to use a trick: they teleport the viewer and player from one place to another.
But how do you tell a movie when the viewer may not even look where he should look. The action could also take place behind him. It will probably take some time to find the right language here.
It has already become clear that Hollywood has long experimented with VR and has serious plans that go far beyond simple marketing. So 21st Century Fox is working on a VR edition of “The Martian”, where the viewer slips into the suit of the main actor Matt Damon and can move around the Red Planet. Fox does not want to give away the application.
Now come the 360-degree cameras
Soon, hobby filmmakers are likely to bring their results into VR glasses. Many start-ups and established companies are working on cheaper 360-degree cameras that have so far cost many thousands of euros, including GoPro, Samsung and Ricoh.
VR applications go far beyond entertainment. Hospitals use VR glasses for pain relief in burn victims, psychologists use them to treat phobias, engineers get a better overview of their creations, the personnel of oil platforms are trained in virtual reality, tourism companies give their customers first impressions, real estate agents enable virtual home tours.
Media are also experimenting with VR. The”New York Times” magazine distributed a million of Google’s Cardboard VR glasses to subscribers in October. “Displaced” was the name of the reportage that the US VR production company VRSE had produced for the magazine to match the action.
Audi presents cars on the moon
The reporters of the VR start-up had accompanied refugees on their way to Europe via a 360-degree camera. Online, the readers of the magazine had the opportunity to experience the path of the refugees in VR using cardboard glasses and smartphones. Readers were both thrilled and shaken, VRSE CEO Chris Milk reported, and announced more VR productions for 2016.
Professional use in particular could become a second driver of VR in addition to entertainment. German carmaker Audi showed at CES how customers can configure their cars with VR glasses in the future.
In doing so, they walk around the car and can even “dip” their heads into the engine to look at the cylinders. The applications will soon be on display in the company’s sales rooms. If you want, you can even take your new Audi to the moon.