Which VR headset is right for you - Let's take a look at the key differences
Mobile, tethered or standalone
Current VR headsets can be divided into three categories: mobile, tethered or standalone.
Mobile VR headsets are basically just shells with lenses in which you place your smartphone. The lenses separate the smartphone screen into two images for your eyes, turning your smartphone into a VR device. With its limited movement tracking and limited graphical processing power, these headsets don’t provide a fully immersive experience like the other two categories. This solution is most commonly used for watching 360° videos. (Click Here if you want to read up on 360 Media versus Virtual Reality)
Thanks to their wireless design, untethered headsets can deliver a more user-friendly experience than their cable-connected counterparts. This extra level of freedom and movement can make the VR experience more immersive for the user. However, this it does come at a cost: without the muscle power of a PC behind it, most untethered headsets will have lower visual fidelity compared to their tethered counterparts.
There are two main solutions for positional tracking for VR headsets: outside-in tracking and inside-out tracking. Positional tracking is very important in VR since it provides the ability for the user to move and walk in the real world, and have that motion be tracked and translated into motion in the virtual world.
With outside-in tracking, one or more cameras and tracking sensors are placed in stationary locations in the room. This allows for accurate tracking of the controllers and room-scale movement. However, there are also some drawbacks with this method of tracking:
- Complexity in setup: Requires time and effort to carefully install cameras and tracking sensors in the room where the VR headset will be used. This can be challenging for non-technical users.
- Needs extra hardware: Uses cameras, mounts, and/or base stations with specific power access requirements. This can make the user experience more complex with cables getting in the way. This also results in these solutions being more expensive.
- Not easily portable: You are basically restricted to the room-scale area where you’ve deployed the cameras. This can be limiting when you try to take this to a customer meeting or a tradeshow. They can also get in the way if you're demoing your application at a convention booth.
The other approach is to use inside-out tracking. In this case, positional tracking cameras are located directly on the VR headset itself. When the headset moves, the sensors on the headset readjust its place in the physical room, and the virtual environment responds accordingly in real-time. Distinctive characteristics of the room are used to determine position and orientation.
Previously, outside-in tracking had more precise tracking. But now with improvements in technology, inside-out tracking is almost as performant as outside-in tracking.
Other Important Features
Graphic fidelity goes a long way toward creating realistic, immersive, and compelling experiences in VR, but sound also plays an important role: While most other forms of media present audio on a plane, VR uses head-related transfer function (HRTF) to simulate how sound would reach the ears, which allows for a full 3D audio experience. Built-in headsets are designed so that the sound you hear comes from the same direction as a given visual stimulus, or they can draw the attention to something happening behind you.
Hand tracking is another recent feature that lets people become more immersed and expressive in VR and allows people to connect on a deeper social level. It also reduces the barriers of entry to VR for people who may not be familiar or comfortable with gaming controllers. As an added bonus: your hands are always with you and come at zero additional hardware cost.
VR Headset Comparison Table
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We will also dig deeper into certain topics in our webinars. If you've missed the first one where we talked about the origins & future of VR, you can check it here (video is in Dutch).