Nowadays one can easily become overwhelmed by all the virtual reality news. There was new hardware announced, heaps of games to play and peripherals that will be released for hardware soon. The majority of VR technology is on curve to come out in 2016.
Before going into the details of high-tech world, it’s important to define the difference between virtual and augmented reality. Virtual reality is able to transpose the user and bring him someplace else via closed visors or goggles. Augmented reality takes our current reality and adds something to it. It does not move us elsewhere, it simply “augments” our current state of presence, often with clear visors.
Below you will find a brief breakdown of the most popular virtual reality headsets.
Oculus Rift is the most famous headset that gave rise to the current boom in VR-technology and HMD.
The latest version of the device promises a resolution of 1080×1200 in both of its OLED screens (2160×1200 total), a 90 Hz refresh rate, and a FOV (field of view) greater than 100°. It has integrated headphones which provide spatialized HRTF audio. The consumer version will be shipped in Q1 2016.
HTC Vive was created in cooperation with the Valve games creator. Valve is one of the biggest names in game publishing and digital distribution, though HTC wants to tap the headset’s potential for immersive education. The Vive lets users walk around a 15-by-15-foot space in VR, complete with two included controllers for interacting with the environment. 90 Hz refresh rate provides a good performance without any delay. Vive is connected to a PC and operates with its own gaming ecosystem.
Razer OSVR (Open Source Virtual Reality) is an open VR ecosystem meant to encompass a range of headsets, accessories and software experiences. Creators can download the software and schematics necessary to build their own OSVR headsets, or can register to buy pre-built OSVR Hacker Dev Kits. OSVR has a ton of development support, with major players such as Leap Motion, Ubisoft and Gearbox Entertainment. Razer OSVR is focused on VR developers and enthusiasts. The headset is compatible with additional components from third-party manufacturers.
Gear VR operates from your Samsung smartphone. You just need to insert your phone into the headset body. Co-developed by Oculus, Gear VR is smaller and lighter than its PC-based gadgets, and offers a mix of VR games and entertainment experiences. The Gear VR Innovator Edition is available now for both the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S6. A new version was released in November 2015, and it supports the Galaxy Note 5 as well as all variations of the Galaxy S6, including the S6 Edge Plus.
Google Cardboard is an Android-based platform meant to allow anyone to experience VR cheaply. Users can build their own Cardboard headsets using Google’s schematics or buy inexpensive third-party viewers such as DodoCase or I Am Cardboard. Once you insert your Android phone into your viewer, you’ve got a virtual reality headset.
VR development tools
We reviewed most popular VR platforms for building VR projects. Most of the platforms are famous for their powerful systems which connect range of products from software to solution designs.
Unity is a flexible and powerful development platform for creating multiplatform 3D and 2D games and interactive experiences. It’s a complete ecosystem for anyone who aims to build a business on creating high-end content and connecting to their most loyal and enthusiastic players and customers.
Unreal Engine is a complete suite of game development tools made by and for game developers. From 2D mobile games to console blockbusters and VR, Unreal Engine 4 provides full cycle of tools for the development.
WorldViz is a full range of products and support, including enterprise grade software, complete VR systems, custom solution design, and application development. Its Vizard VR Toolkit provides a powerful platform for creating a new breed of visual simulations. One can build applications that provide users with the good experiences across virtual reality immersive technologies such as displays and sensors.
GameWorks VR is NVIDIA’s set of APIs, libraries, and features that enable both VR headset and game developers. GameWorks VR is aimed at game and application developers, and includes a feature called VR SLI, which provides increased performance for VR applications where multiple GPUs can be assigned a specific eye to accelerate stereo rendering. GameWorks VR also delivers Context Priority for providing control over GPU scheduling to support advanced VR features such as asynchronous time warp. There’s also a Direct Mode for treating VR headsets as head-mounted displays accessible only to VR applications. GameWorks VR is being integrated into leading game engines, such as those from Epic Games, which has announced support for GameWorks VR features in an upcoming version of the popular Unreal Engine 4.3.
OSVR platform is fully open-source, so you can have complete access to all you need (from motion control, to game engines, and stereoscopic video output) whether you’re interested in working with hardware developmental kit designs, or software plugins. Companies such as Unity, Unreal, Intel, Bosch, Razer, Sixense, and Leapmotion are all supporters of the OSVR.
High Fidelity is an open source virtual reality platform for creating a social metaverse. It’s still a work-in-progress. High Fidelity supports Java Script, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Unity, Unreal Engine, PrioVR, Sixsense, HTC Vive headset and Razer Hydra. High Fidelity has the potential to be the next Facebook in VR. For now, the majority of development in the space happens in traditional game engines like Unity and Unreal. High Fidelity’s worlds put it somewhere between those professional tools and customizable video games, opening up innovation in the space to those who are willing to get technical but don’t want to build something from the ground up.
VR technology is already right around the corner, and one must admit it’s awesome. Finally VR is becoming accessible, and it’s only the beginning, when you can now put yourself in the action of your favorite digital worlds, instead of simply gaming on a TV.
Nearly every industry will soon use VR for teleconferencing and training. VR in gaming already allows travelling into gaming titles (Rigs: Mechanized Combat League, P.O.L.L.E.N, Eve: Valkyrie, etc). All the Virtual Reality headsets currently in development will make going behind the screens feasible. For some non-gaming professionals, 3-D experiences are already transforming the way they do their jobs:
– Real Estate
Instead of spending hours driving around looking for the perfect house, savvy realtors will give clients VR tours of properties. Matterport (real estate agency in the US) is already selling a 3-D camera system to help agents create these walk-throughs.
– Mental Health
Doctors at research hospitals have used VR for decades to treat patients with burns and PTSD. But now a company called Psious offers a headset and software bundle to help therapists treat anxiety disorders like arachnophobia and fear of flying with a VR version of exposure therapy.
– Design and Engineering
Ford Motor is using Oculus tech to evaluate virtual versions of vehicles before they’re built, and startups are developing VR design tools for everyone from architects to nanotech engineers.
According to Altabel’s experience in VR development, we believe that VR has the promise to improve every aspect of technology, whether in the medical field, education, or in gaming, and with all of the emerging developers approaching this tech from their own perspective, virtual reality should be a fully realized technology by 2016.
And what do you think of Virtual Reality? Have you ever thought of trying VR in your business? Which VR platform do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments section below.