Virtual Reality is a fascinating way to travel using nothing more than the power of technology. With a headset and motion tracking, VR lets you look around a virtual space as if you’re actually there. It’s also been a promising technology for decades that’s never truly caught on. That’s changing with the current wave of VR products.
Oculus has the popular Rift, HTC and Valve have the Steam-friendly Vive, Sony launched the excellent PlayStation VR, Samsung recently added a separate controller to its Gear VR, and Google’s Daydream is steadily growing from the remains of Google Cardboard. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Windows 10 mixed reality platform and a variety of hardware manufacturers working on it are slowly creeping into the market with their own unified platform. Then there are the new standalone headsets, like the Oculus Go, Lenovo Mirage Solo, and the upcoming HTC Vive Focus.
The Big Question: What Type of VR?
Modern VR headsets fit under one of two categories: Mobile or tethered. Mobile headsets are shells with lenses into which you place your smartphone. The lenses separate the screen into two images for your eyes, turning your smartphone into a VR device. Mobile headsets like the Samsung Gear VR and the Google Daydream View are relatively inexpensive at around $100, and because all of the processing is done on your phone, you don’t need to connect any wires to the headset.
You can’t count on accurate position tracking with mobile headsets. Most use three-degrees-of-freedom (3DOF) motion tracking, which means they can follow the direction you’re facing very accurately, but can’t tell if you’re moving forward, backward, up, down, left, or right. To accurately track your position, you need a headset with six-degrees-of-freedom (6DOF) motion tracking. All tethered headsets have this thanks to either external sensors or outward-facing cameras.