Virtual reality has come a very long way from the realm of science fiction to a world where VR headsets exist for all manner of budgets. From full immersion into the fast-paced world of a first-person shooter game, adding new dimensions to in-person party games, using crafting apps to build your own perfect world, or walking through the pages of history, VR headsets have completely transformed the world of entertainment.
To make sure that you have the ideal VR experience, there are several crucial considerations including budget, the choice of physical materials, and the ability to successfully connect to other external devices to successfully create your desired experience.
While the best VR headsets will cost you over $1,000, there are a wide range of models that are available for any budget. From the $10 Google Cardboard, the $300 Acer Windows Mixed Reality, or the $1,400 HTC VIVE Pro 2 Virtual Reality System. It is worth noting that each system has its own technological limits and capabilities, including display, PPD (pixels per degree), resolution, field of view, refresh rate and positional tracking.
Resolution per eye and PPD are especially important for creating a realistic and immersive experience since they will determine the overall detail that you can perceive as well as creating a crisp, appealing display. Field of view refers to the amount of a digital environment that can be viewed at any given moment and high-quality VR headsets generally have between 100° and 110° of vision. Display and refresh rate are likely familiar to anyone who has purchased a Smart TV or PC monitor, but they are crucial in VR headset to help prevent motion sickness, create a realistic experience, and enjoy your favorite LED, OLED, or AMOLED technology.
Whether you plan to enjoy hours and hours in a virtual world or just plan to pop in every now and then, it should be a comfortable experience both in terms of wearing your VR headset and not suffering any injury or illness. Unfortunately, some VR headsets are not designed to be worn for extended periods of time (or at least not comfortably), leaving users with facial bruises, irritation from straps and buckles, and so on. Hygiene concerns may also arise if you choose to go with fabric straps which, while generally more comfortable and breathable then rubberized or plastic straps, are significantly more difficult to sanitize.
Though it can be less of an issue if you are the only person using the VR headset, you should take care to sterilize the headset components on a regular basis to avoid spreading diseases like pink eye. You should also make sure to wipe the headset down for each person using the device to mitigate issues of sanitation. Other desirable features include extra padding around the forehead and face for comfort, materials that can be easily wiped down, and a protective case for your valuable VR equipment.
VR headsets are certainly impressive pieces of technology, but no matter the manufacturer or design, they are not capable of operating in a vacuum. To create a virtual world for you to create or destroy, they must “tether” themselves to other advanced technologies to successfully stream data and create your VR experience. There are two primary methods for connecting your VR headset to other devices, either pairing the headset with your smartphone or utilizing a PC or gaming console. VR headsets can come in both wired and wireless models, but each needs to work in concert with a more powerful device to create your desired experience.
It is worth noting that for VR headsets which use smartphones as their technological backbone that only certain models of smartphone will be compatible with a given device. Such models are generally much cheaper to purchase but will not function without an appropriate smartphone.
Headsets which are intended to be used with PCs and video game consoles will require significantly more money to purchase, and that doesn’t even take the cost of a console or PC into account. Unlike models based around smartphones, these headsets come with dual screens installed within the device to create a significantly more robust and realistic experience. Before you decide to purchase a particular model of VR headset, it is crucial to consider whether you already have the necessary compatible technology or whether you will have to purchase other expensive equipment to enjoy virtual reality.
One of the cheapest forms of VR headset available, the Google Cardboard offers an extremely affordable VR headset that can be built with little knowledge of DIY and works with the majority of iOS and Android smartphones. For around $10 per headset and some cardboard, hook and loop fasteners, a rubber band, some lenses, and magnets, you can enjoy a variety of apps including YouTube, Google Play Store, and the official Cardboard app.
An excellent headset for any Windows 10 user who wants to enjoy virtual reality in stunning clarity, this model’s motion controllers are directly tracked by the sensors in your headset, allowing for greater responsiveness and more natural motion tracking. By combining headphones with the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset, users can enjoy spatial audio to detect and determine both sounds and their origin points in a virtual environment. The HoloReact Media Player also offers some of the best 360° video and image viewing in any headset available.
While this model is one of the most expensive VR headsets on the market, it offers a combined 4896 x 2448 resolution in 5K clarity, getting you as close to the action as humanly possible. This unit also comes with a wide 120 Degree field of view (FOV), a 120Hz refresh rate, and the ability to adjust your IPD or interpupillary distance to help reduce eyestrain.