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/ 12.06.2019

Recent VR, AR, and MR News – Eight Headsets You Need To Know About

The last couple of months have been pretty hectic for the immersive industry – with the announcement of Hololens 2, release of Oculus Quest, and teasers of other groundbreaking hardware due to release later this year. There’s quite a lot to digest! Here’s a roundup of the news.

Oculus Quest

The Oculus Quest is Facebook’s first standalone headset offering six degrees of freedom. The mobile processor in Quest can’t push the same quality image as a PC driven headset like the Rift, but many games don’t really need a high level of processing. The device delivers on technology and content, and it’s a brilliant starting point for showcasing the capabilities of VR to those new to the industry. It’s also perfect for those that just want to play Beat Saber anywhere!

Preorders opened on 30th April – it took just four days for Oculus to sell out of its first-week allocation of headsets from the Oculus store and is already an Amazon Best Seller. Positive reviews are pouring in as people have received their Quests and it’s really exciting to see all of the titles being added to the Quest store which make best use of the untethered freedom of the headset. We’ll be doing a roundup of our top picks of Quest titles soon, so watch this space!

You can read more about the Quest here.

Oculus Rift S

The Rift S is an upgrade to the original Oculus Rift. It features sharper resolution, fewer cables, directional speakers and the same revamped motion controllers as the Quest. At 563g, the Rift S is heavier than the original (470g) but it is actually more comfortable to wear due to the weight being distributed across it.

The most notable improvement is the addition of five cameras mounted around the HMD. These provide inside-out tracking (the same tracking that will ship on the Quest) but also Passthrough Plus, allowing the user to see the real world environment through the cameras – no need to remove the headset. The frame rate, however, has been lowered from 90Hz to 80Hz, and the resolution, while sharper than the original Rift, is not as good as the Quest.

The Rift S is drawing criticism for not being ‘different’ enough from its predecessor, but if you prize the convenience of inside-out tracking, and own a gaming PC, this could be the headset for you.

Valve Index

After teasing the new headset in March, Valve officially unveiled its much-anticipated Index headset on 30th April. The headset is aimed towards VR gamers and has a release date of 28th June (but, it is now backlogged until September due to a high volume of pre-orders). The full kit, including Knuckles controllers, the headset, and two base stations will set you back $999. As the headset is compatible with HTC Vive controllers and base stations, users who already own the Vive can just buy the headset, which costs $499.

The key message from Valve with regard to this headset is ‘fidelity first’. The optics feature a custom double element design and canted position – to maximize field of view without sacrificing clarity. With a 144Hz refresh rate, experiences will feel a lot smoother – immersion is heightened. The headset is ergonomically designed, with an interchangeable face gasket, and dial-in head size, face angle, IPD, and speaker position to allow users complete comfort and immersion. One feature that is missing is eye-tracking – a shame considering that the headset offers quality across the spectrum.

A ‘flagship VR game’ is planned by Valve for the SteamVR platform, but it is yet to be announced. This leaves users with the large array of SteamVR content currently available, albeit with fewer exclusives than other platforms. The improvements in resolution and frame rate may have a negative impact on existing content that pushes the limits of max specification on current HMDs. However, sampling and scaling will probably fill the gap until better GPUs are widely adopted.   

HP Reverb  

With a staggering 2160 x 2160 panel per eye, a 114-degree field of view, inside-out tracking, and lightweight design, the Reverb headset delivers across the board and tackles some of the pain points associated with VR solutions. The Reverb has superb visual quality and is very comfortable to wear – especially during extended usage for intense workflows, and worry-free deployment via the built-in Windows Mixed Reality Support in Windows 10.

REWIND developed an experience that allows the user to toggle between Reverb’s native resolution and field of view, and that of a headset from five years ago. The difference in text legibility between the emulated ‘Gen 1’ headset mode and native Reverb is astounding. It’s impressive how much more readable text and fine detail is at this resolution.

Currently, headsets are listed as ‘out of stock’ in retailers. Watch this space if you’re looking to get your hands on one!

Vive Focus Plus

The Vive Focus Plus was announced back in February and available to buy now. It is a professional-grade standalone headset with fully tracked motion controllers – an upgrade from the original Vive Focus, which had limited tracking options. Its screen is on a par with the Oculus Quest, offering 1440 x 1600 per eye, and utilizes inside-out tracking, which removes the need for any wires or external cameras. These additions and improvements come at a cost, raising the price to $818 with a compulsory ‘advantage warranty’ charge of $147 – which includes software support, expedited repair services, and a 2-year warranty.

Vive Pro Eye

HTC officially opened up pre-orders for its newest headset – the Vive Pro Eye – on 15th May, and the headsets are now available on the Vive Store. The device is a version of the company’s enterprise headset with integrated eye tracking. Coming in at $1,900, the Vive Eye Pro kit includes the headset, link box, Vive controllers, SteamVR 2.0 base stations, adapters and cables. It’s important to mention that the headset is not currently available on its own, so if you want to get your hands on it, you will have to go all in!

Besides eye tracking, not much else has changed versus the original Vive Pro. Both headsets have 2880 x 1600 combined resolution, surround sound audio, refresh rate of 90Hz and 110-degree FOV.

ThinkReality AR and VR

On 13th May, Lenovo launched its answer to the HoloLens: The ThinkRealityAR and VR headset. There are two parts to this system: the AR/VR headset, and the software platform. Headset specs at a glance:

  • Weight = 360g
  • Two fisheye cameras and depth sensors
  • 40-degree FOV and 1080p resolution on each eye
  • 13-megapixel RGB sensor
  • Microphones and voice control
  • 3DoF Controller
  • 6,800mAh battery (with four hours untethered battery life)
  • Snapdragon 845 CPU

The ThinkReality headset connects to a compute box which can be worn on a belt clip or armband, which Lenovo says makes it “one of the lightest fully featured AR headsets in its class”.

The software platform is even more exciting, providing enterprise companies with the ability to create AR apps without being tied to a specific OS. Lenovo describes the platform as “cloud agnostic” – meaning that it will work with Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. The software will also be accessible to all devices – you don’t have to use it exclusively with the ThinkReality headset and can use it on your HTC Vive if you like.

The release date and pricing are yet to be announced.

HoloLens 2

Microsoft announced HoloLens 2 in February at MWC, but recently revealed further details and put the device on preorder in the US, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and the UK.

The main issue with the original HoloLens was the limited field of view (FOV). HoloLens 2 has doubled the FOV to 52 degrees, and, despite the jump, has retained its high 47 pixels per-degree (PPD). HoloLens visionary Alex Kipman said that the headset targets 47 PPD because that’s the bar for legibly reading 8-point font on a website. The latest headset is also more comfortable than its predecessor – carbon fiber cuts down on weight and the flip-up visor is convenient.

Gesture control has gone from HoloLens 2. Instead, full hand-tracking means users can interact much more directly with applications by touching, poking, and sliding controls. The headset is also equipped with eye-tracking.

The HoloLens 2 is going to set you back $3,500 or $99 a month for the development edition, which includes $500 worth of Azure credit and a three month trial of Unity Pro and PiXYZ Plugin.

This article was written by Sol Rogers and originally appeared on Forbes.com.

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