It feels like each of the last three years has been labeled by one publication or another as the “Year of VR.” It’s understandable, because the emergence of this technology is incredibly exciting, and we’ve been eager to embrace it. But the reality is that virtual and augmented reality have been rolled out gradually, and while some devices have been available for over a year, we’re only just starting to gain a clear picture of what the market is going to look like. So with that said, let’s look at some of the most important devices out there in the VR and AR fields.
There’s not quite a definitive “best” VR headset on the market, but the HTC Vive is the closest thing to one. It’s sometimes disregarded by consumers because of its hefty price point (about $600). But it’s been ranked as the best overall headset by multiple tech sites, and it seems to generate the best reviews. Its resolution and precision tracking are top of the line, which basically means it creates the most realistic VR experience. Also, because it was created with Valve, it has full access to the Steam market, meaning any VR game available on Steam can easily be played on the Vive. In summary, it’s convenient and exceptional, with a terrific game selection, and those factors could make it the device to beat in years to come. It’s just expensive.
Some have called the PS VR the most immersive headset on the market, in part because its 3D audio capabilities match its outstanding visual and sensory technology. It also gets points for working alongside one of the most popular gaming consoles out there, rather than requiring a high-powered, expensive PC. The price is more reasonable than many thing ($350), and there’s also an extensive lineup of exclusive games. That lineup happens to include some of the more famous VR titles we’ve seen yet: Driveclub VR, Batman: Arkham VR, Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR, and Rez Infinite, to name a few.
This device hasn’t actually come out yet, but it already sounds like the most impactful gadget ever for the AR market. Apple has already unveiled its “ARKit,” the program that will allow for AR game development, and the possibilities seem endless. ARKit will facilitate the playing of games like Minecraft through phone screens, projecting creations on tables or even in back yards. It also has the potential to tap into the immense casino game market, where endless variety of games includes live dealer options that already look somewhat like a form of VR. Projecting a dealer or a full card game into a room in your home would be another step forward. And the examples of Minecraft and casino gaming say nothing of the new innovation we’ll see once developers get their hands on iPhone 8s (and potentially the AR glasses Apple is said to have around the corner).
It’s not quite as exciting as the two VR headsets at the top of this list, nor as new as the idea of AR on an iPhone. But the Gear VR could still be the most important VR device currently on the market. That’s because it’s only about $100 and it’s compatible with some of the most popular smartphones in the world. Samsung Gear VR doesn’t have the same capabilities as the HTC Vive or PlayStation VR, but its price point is a big deal – as is the fact that it doesn’t need a PC or a PlayStation (or Xbox) in order to work. It may be that in a few years the higher end products’ prices deflate a little bit, or that people simply warm up to paying more for VR. But Gear VR has been and will continue to be a popular entry point to the market, and that alone makes it important.