Virtual reality, or VR, has been around as a concept for decades, but it is only within the last couple of years that devices which make it accessible to the mainstream market have emerged. There are a number of competing VR headsets available to buy today, but which of those products is worthy of your attention?
Arguably the cheapest way to get into the world of VR is via the headset offered by Sony, although you will need to already own the PlayStation 4 or PS4 Pro consoles to make use of this device. PS VR is effectively an expensive add-on that has a growing library of games available, some of which are exclusive to the platform, including Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and Farpoint. Other games, like Resident Evil 7, can be enhanced through the use of PS VR, but are not entirely reliant upon it. So for console gamers who do not have huge amounts of cash to spend on a PC or smartphone, this could be the best way to access virtual reality.
Samsung Gear VR
Some VR systems rely on an integrated display which is built into the device, but the Gear VR instead turns modern Samsung Galaxy smartphones into virtual reality displays in their own right, thanks to its partnership with Facebook-owned VR firm, Oculus. At the moment, it is compatible with the S6, S7 and Note 5 smartphones, with a focus not just on offering an interactive gaming experience to users, but also opening up a world of media content, including VR video clips and movies.
For anyone who already owns one of the compatible smartphones, the Gear VR could be the best headset of the bunch, although it is limited by the power of the handsets themselves and the mobile-centric nature of the games on offer.
People who consider themselves hardcore gamers will probably want to opt for the Vive as their VR headset of choice. It offers a whole range of impressive interactive experiences through the use of the headset and motion controller combo, with access to Valve’s Steam download system, and it also boasts impressive levels of comfort and excellent audio quality as standard. Of course, buying a PC which is capable of powering the Vive effectively will cost hundreds of pounds, so the upfront investment required for newcomers is steep, to the point of being potentially off-putting. Those with cash to spare will probably plump for this headset over its rivals, though.
The VR headset which kickstarted the current trend and earned major interest from industry titans, the Oculus Rift has suffered from stiff competition from rivals and yet is still a viable option for virtual reality early adopters. Unlike the Gear VR, which shares similar underlying systems, it comes with a built-in display and has additional controllers which enhance the interactivity of the gaming experience. It also supports more creative titles, such as Quill, which are intended to unlock the artistic potential of users, and not just allow them to murder aliens and rescue princesses in a more immersive way than before.
The one thing which unifies all of the VR headsets is their cost, which one way or another is higher than many people would like. However, until the market matures a little, it seems that paying for next-gen gaming and media experiences like this is inevitable.