News / 08.12.2017
REWIND’s Christmas XR Gift Guide
– Sol Rogers
According to a new study, one in four millennials put VR gadgets at the top of their wish list this year. With the buzz that’s been around VR for a while now, it’s no surprise, but the number of options can be confusing, and it doesn’t help that there are even more headsets on the way!
Where do you start? Here’s our lowdown on what’s worth a look if you are buying for yourself or others.
Best VR headsets for beginners
It’s best to opt for a starter-level headset if you are buying for someone who has little-to-no experience of VR. Using smartphones as screens, the lenses bring 360°images and video content to life. These headsets are the perfect low-commitment, low-cost gateway into the world of VR.
This simple cardboard viewer from Google puts VR on your mobile. There are plenty of similar options on Amazon with prices starting around £5, the perfect stocking filler! These devices work with nearly any smartphone, but more powerful phones will produce better results, so make sure whoever you’re buying for has a device with fairly high specs.
Samsung Gear VR
At around £100, Samsung’s Gear VR is pricier than Google’s offering, but it promises a more high-tech experience, with a wide 101° field of view, precise head-tracking and low latency. On the downside, it is only compatible with Samsung model phones. The Samsung Gear VR is a byproduct of a two-year collaboration with Samsung and Oculus, so when you power up the device you are taken directly into the Oculus app (a free app store) with 100s of apps to choose from.
Google Daydream View
This soft, lightweight fabric headset looks and feels great and offers a comparable experience to Gear VR. However, like the Gear it is only compatible with certain phones, but it’s worth noting that some of these phones also work with a Gear. The Daydream is slightly smaller than a Gear and its fabric cover is more susceptible to accidental spills, but it’s definitely got the comfort factor and you don’t have to worry about scratching the exterior if you toss it in your bag! If you buy Daydream you are buying into the Google, rather than Oculus, ecosystem.
Whilst mobile VR headsets are accessible, just bear in mind that due to the limitations of a smartphone’s graphical performance, most of these experiences are linear, rather than completely interactive. Although both Google Daydream View and Samsung Gear VR allow for more game-like experiences.
Best PC based VR headsets
For hardcore gamers or passionate techies, a high-end VR headset is the only way to go. Rather than using smartphones, these devices work with PCs, allowing for positional (leaning/movement) tracking, motion controllers, and raw horsepower to deliver visually intense experiences.
The OG of VR, Oculus’ signature device kicked off the recent leap forward in VR technology and continues to be a leading headset. As long as your recipient has a powerful enough computer, an Oculus Rift will provide a premier VR experience for around £350, reduced from the original RRP of £549. There are lots of deals to be had this Christmas, so do your research before you buy.
HTC’s VIVE is fast becoming one of the most popular VR headsets money can buy, at around £600, plus a VR ready computer, it’s a serious investment but for room-scale tracking – being able to move around an entire room freely, without the game, headset, sensors or anything else losing track of your location – it’s hard to beat. And if you are a glasses-wearer like me, a helpful lens distance knob moves the Vive lenses further and closer to your face. Oculus Rift supports glasses, too, but the headset doesn’t have this handy adjustment knob. On the question of content, some say that Oculus is the clear winner thanks to numerous exclusives, but I’m not sure it’s such a solid case.
Although not PC based, the Playstation VR also offers a powerful experience and only requires a PS4 console to run. With 490,000 PSVRs sold in Q3 alone, it’s definitely a popular choice. Check out the best deals to be found here.
Best AR presents
As well as virtual reality headsets, augmented reality (AR) devices are ideal Christmas gifts. Rather than take users into fully-immersive worlds, AR systems overlay the real world with virtual images—often in the form of characters or games.
Apps are a part of everyday life, yet it’s still uncommon to buy one as a gift. Despite this, there are ways to do it (here’s Apple’s guide on how to gift an app via iOS), and vouchers for the App Store are readily available. These nine AR apps show off the capabilities of the iOS 11 ARKit, including the immersive war strategy game Euclidean Lands and weather app Carrot Weather.
Fresh off its appearance on itv’s This Morning, this T-Shirt is covered in one large AR marker! Simply point the free Virtuali-Tee app on your phone at the wearer and unlock the portal into the body. It’s a great gift for parents looking to help their children learn about the human body, in a way that feels more like playing than learning. the app is available on both the App Store and Google Play, with the Virtuali-Tee available through the official Curioscope store.
Best mobile phone for VR
Whilst there are many phones on the market with high resolutions that will support VR, here are some of the better options that have the most support and most mature ecosystems.
Samsung Galaxy S8
Highly compatible with the Samsung Gear and also the Daydream, this is the first phone capable of accessing content on two mobile HMDs. The S8 has the most powerful processor of any Android phone, making it perfect for VR experiences. The phone’s high specs mean it will never overheat or slow down, no matter how long you use it for VR.
Google Pixel 2
Launched alongside the Daydream View headset, the Pixel 2 is another of the most powerful phones on the market, and it comes with Google’s Daydream app pre-installed, giving owners access to the tech giant’s powerful VR platform and content hub.
The Future – Standalone VR and AR Glasses
Hopefully you’re starting to get an idea of what type of VR device you want to buy, but, just to put a spanner in the works, I want to give you a taste of the VR and AR devices yet to come on the market! These standalone headsets could be potential game changers, so if you can wait, a purchase in 2018 might be the best way to go…
Oculus Go does not require a computer or phone to function, allowing users to effortlessly enter VR. This, combined with its lower cost (around £150) and comfort factor – it’s made with breathable fabrics – makes it an extremely attractive offering and the first truly giftable headset. Positioned as a VR headset that’s between the Oculus and Gear, it’s easy to see why it’s being termed as the ‘most accessible VR headset’. It has the same wide field of view as the Rift and promises significantly reduced glare. It even has an integrated spatial audio experience – the audio drivers are built into the headset, and you don’t need headphones. Through the device, you’ll have complete access to Gear VR content. We’re due our dev kit any day but consumers won’t be able to get their hands on the device until early 2018.
HTC has announced Vive Focus in China, no details yet on price, or release date; or whether it’s going to come to the UK, but it’s definitely one to watch. The Vive Focus runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip and uses inside-out positional tracking. It should be the first standalone six-degrees-of-freedom VR headset on the market. “Degrees of freedom” refers to the freedom of movement a body has in a three-dimensional space, with this device you’ll be able to move around as if you are truly in the environment – think ducking, jumping, lunging.
Lenovo & Google device
If you were holding out for the Vive-branded standalone Google Daydream, don’t. HTC and Google have cancelled their plans to bring one to the US. Instead, Google and Lenovo will be teaming up again (they launched Project Tango together) to bring out a standalone headset It will be one of the first devices to feature WorldSense™, which gives you six-degrees-of-freedom. Not much info out yet, but expect more very soon.
Apple has shaken up the AR market with ARKit, but this is just a platform allowing developers to create apps in minutes and hours rather than weeks and months. The real AR future lies in the not-yet-announced Apple AR Glasses. Sadly, this is not a gift for this Christmas and perhaps not even next year; the rumoured glasses are expected to reach consumers in 2019/2020. In the meantime, there are a number of devices on the market that might appeal, especially if you are a budding athlete or Star Wars fan.
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