XR Devices Review

Oculus Quest– Standalone
– Reasonable price for standalone
– Comfortable to wear
– Easy to set up and use
– Poor battery life
– Controller batteries are non-rechargeable
– Light leaks in from nose area
Pico Neo 2 Eye– Standalone
– Native eye-tracking technology in partnership with Tobii
– Able to wirelessly connect to PC
– Controllers don’t look very ergonomic
– Not actually yet released
Nintendo Labo VR Kit– Fresh method to creating different types of controllers with cardboard and Joy-cons
– Ability to create your own games with Toy-con Garage
– Limitations by the Nintendo Switch’s screen, such as low resolution and refresh rate
– Only 3DOF
HTC Vive Cosmos– High resolution and refresh rate
– Headset cameras removes any need for external base stations
– Modular faceplate design
– Requires gaming desktop PC with dedicated graphics card
– Light sensitivity problems
– Tethered
Sony Playstation VR– Large selection of games to play
– High refresh rate
– Requires external sensors
– Tethered
Valve Index – High resolution and refresh rate
– Practical new controllers, strapped around your hands instead of held
– Able to open and close hand s naturally instead of relying on abstractions like grip or trigger
– Requires gaming desktop PC
– Controllers lack tactile feedback
– Requires external sensors

Based on my current experiences with the HTC Vive and Oculus Quest, my preference is definitely for non-tethered VR headsets since the cable easily get’s tangled up and is easy to trip over. Ideally I would also prefer the VR device to not have to be dependent on a high-end PC to run.

It's easy to update your Oculus Quest.

Hence my preferred VR device would be the Oculus Quest, given its relatively cheap price compared to other standalone VR devices which provide 6DOF.

However, I am very interested in the Pico Neo 2 Eye which has the function of eye tracking since the common methods for gaze inputs is to have rotate the headset for the center pointer to “look” at objects, and look forward to seeing how it can perform.

Tesseract Holoboard Enterprise Edition – High FOV at 82°
– Allows for teams to collaborate in MR
– Seems relatively cheap
– Requires a smartphone with Snapdragon 820 processor or above in order for this device to operate.
Magic Leap One – Standalone
– 6DOF
– Interchangeable components
– Features advanced eye-tracking, even blinks can be as a command function for the user
– Controller with force control and haptic feedback
– Pricey
– Only 40° FOV
– User has to carry the lightpack
Microsoft HoloLens2– Standalone, no external packs
– Gesturing and gaze tracking
– Improved FOV at 52° compared to HoloLens 1
– Pricey
Side-angle view of HoloLens 2 headset with light reflecting off visor

My pick for my preferred MR device would be the HoloLens2, it looks the most stylish and least clunky to put on. The hand gesture controls are also pretty cool.

My VR/MR Review

As the world of AR/VR/MR is new to me (having only fiddled with HWs a few times), I naturally turned to Google in search of the latest HWs for 2020.

Based on pcmag, these are the latest VR HWs for 2020 and their respective specifications and reviews:

Link: https://sea.pcmag.com/consumer-electronics-reviews-ratings-comparisons/10991/the-best-vr-headsets

Based on my previous experiences, I have always found that VR HWs are either clunky, headache-inducing or just too expensive for the normal consumer. I guess that’s why despite owning a gaming laptop and a PlayStation that are perfectly capable of supporting VR games, I never really bought into the hype.

That is until I bought a Nintendo Switch last year and found this really cool addition that Nintendo has introduced to the VR world:

Behold the Nintendo Labo VR Kit made for the Nintendo Switch:

Image result for nintendo labo vr

Before someone mocks the design and appeal of this product (I mean who has heard of a cardboard headset? Is this a copycat of the Google Cardboard VR?), hear me out on why this is one of my favourite VR HWs! However, we first need to understand Nintendo’s motivations behind creating such a product.

What Nintendo has done was truly bizarre at the time when this product was released. Like many gaming and PC companies, Nintendo wanted to enter the VR market, but it did not want to stand beside the slew of competitors such as Microsoft, Google, HTC, Sony, who were all more than capable of creating the best VRs HWs possible. Furthermore, Nintendo devices have always been geared towards a younger audience and its latest Nintendo Switch product doesn’t even have the graphical horsepower like most of its competition such as the Xbox and PlayStation counterparts. Thus, Nintendo did what it had to do, it created a VR headset that draws the users’ creativity at a much lower price point, geared towards its own unique target audience.

The Nintendo Labo VR is a cardboard VR headset that introduces features and accessories you think only a company such a DIY company such as IKEA would think of. There are a range of things to build and customize the VR headset with accessories such as a Blaster, an Elephant, and even a Bird! These accessories make the VR experience a truly unique one as they complement the cartoony and kid-friendly characteristics of a typical Nintendo game. With a battery life depending on the Switch console itself as well as graphic limitations, it is a good entry-point for experiencing the VR world without worrying about charging ever so often.

As such, this product taps on the creativity and imagination in you to experience a world of VR that is unlike many traditional VR headsets. Thus, it is one of my favourite VR HWs.

Now that we have covered a VR HW that is more for entry-level VR experiences, the next entry for my favourite MR HW will be more serious in terms of specifications in order to blur the lines between reality and virtual reality perfectly.

My favourite mixed-reality HW has to be the Asus Windows MR headset (HC102)

Image result for Asus Windows Mixed Reality VR

Looks like something from the future, doesn’t it?

At less than 400g (according to Asus’ website), it is by far one of the lighter MR headsets and it features a design that is ergonomic and elegant. One can simply just flip up the visor and take a short breather when required; a plus for usability and user safety. However, the best part of this headset is the fact that it is cheaper than most of its competitors such as Samsung as well as an easy setup that doesn’t require too much horsepower on your computer.

This makes it affordable and available to the average consumer who just wants to get in on the action whilst getting the same refresh rates and sufficient visuals that a MR headset needs.

As you can see from my choices, I am particularly fond of companies that go out of their way to create something unique, comfortable and affordable for consumers. Sure, my favourites don’t provide the most graphically intense visuals or the best possible experience. However, what is important to gamers and consumers is the illusion of a virtual/mixed world that seems real enough to get you in on the action.

Author: Darren Sim A0136233N

Images are sourced from Google or the products’ respective websites.

VR/MR headsets review

List of VR headsets:

HeadsetProcessor typeUpfront Cost (USD)DoF head-trackingResolutionRefresh rateBattery life
Oculus Rift SExternal PC39961,280 by 1,440 80HzUnlimited 
Oculus QuestIn-built Snapdragon 835 processor499 (128GB)61,440 by 1,60072Hz3648mAh (2-3 hrs)
HTC ViveExternal PC49961,080 by 1,20090HzUnlimited
Lenovo Mirage Solo In-built Snapdragon 835 processor39961,280 by 1,440 75Hz4000mAh (2.5 hr)
Google Daydream ViewEternal mobile devices493Depends on phone Depends on phoneDepends on phone
Google CardboardExternal mobile devices153Depends on phoneDepends on phoneDepends on phone

Note: 3 DoF head-tracking means you can only track rotational movement. 6 DoF head-tracking means you can track both position and rotation.

Preferred VR headset:

I look out for 3 main things in a VR headset, which are cost, convenience and games supported.

I rate games supported > cost > convenience because I feel that the best VR headset should provide me with a pleasant game experience with the games I want to play at a reasonable price.

However, since my taste in VR games are usually compatible with most VR devices, cost and convenience will be the deciding factor to my prefered VR headset.

In terms of cost, Google Daydream View seems to offer the best value because it uses mobile devices as its processor. Since mobile devices can do other things besides playing VR games, its value is far greater than standalone VR headsets such as Oculus Quest/ Lenovo Mirage Solo where the extra cost for in-built processor can only be used to power VR related content. 

Google Daydream View also has better materials which makes it more lasting than Google Cardboard and hence its worth the extra price. Not to mention the aesthetics of Google Daydream looks much better than that of Cardboard, providing a soft comfortable feel akin to wearing a sleeping mask.

In terms of convenience, Google Daydream View wins over wired headsets like Oculus Rift S/HTC Vive as it is so much easier to set up with it and there are no wire management to be done. Google Daydream View is also much more portable compared to Oculus Rift S/HTC Vive which means that I can enjoy my VR games anywhere, anytime.

Though the battery life of Google Daydream View is only as long as your mobile phone can hold which is usually around 2.5 hrs, I feel that it is a sufficient gaming time for me.

Hence my prefered VR headsets would be the Google Daydream View due to its low cost and portability.  

Google Daydream View

List of MR headsets:

HeadsetCost (USD)Field of ViewResolution ControlsOS
HoloLens 23,50052 by 502k– Hand tracking
– Voice recognition
Windows Holographic OS
Magic Leap 12,29543 by 301280 by 960– Physical controller
– Hand tracking
Lumin OS
Holokit30 + supported mobile phone76Depends on phone– Gesture tracking with manomotion 
– External bluetooth controller
Holokit + phone OS
Occipital Bridge399 + supported iphone120Depends on iphone– Bridge controllerBridge Engine + iphone OS

Preferred MR headset:

For MR headset, I would look into 4 things – interface, processing power, graphic quality and control.

I personally rank them as such: control > processing power > graphic quality > interface.

In terms of interface, I am personally more familiar with windows interface and windows OS, hence I find the interfaces of HoloLens 2 more intuitive to use than Magic Leap 1.

In terms of processing power, HoloLens 2 being backed by microsoft provides remote rendering for microsoft azure cloud subscribers, which enabled more powerful processing and hence allows greater interactivity. This cloud processing power also has the potential to surpass any mobile processing power that mobile MR headsets such as Holokit and Occipital Bridge has to offer, making HoloLens 2 having the best processing power out of all the headsets.

In terms of graphic qualtity, HoloLens 2 has a higher resolution and a larger field of view than Magic Leap 1, providing a clearer augmented reality imagery with a greater effective area of AR. Though HoloLens 2 has a smaller field of view compared to mobile MR headsets, it compensates with a much higher holographic image quality of 2K resolution.

In terms of controls, HoloLens 2 has better hand tracking control system that tracks fingers, enabling more interactions to be made possible, such as playing an augmented reality piano without the need of a controller. This enabled organic interactions that feels natural and intuitive.

The Magic Leap 1 hand tracking is much inferior and only tracks 8 predefined gestural commands, hence its main source of input is through a controller.

Occipital bridge and Holokit both enabled interactions but via an external bluetooth controller. Holokit does provides some gesture inputs through monomotion but its tracking are limited to predefined gestures.

Thus, my preferred choice of MR headset would be the HoloLens 2. Although it is much more expensive and is currently only available for corporate purchase, its specifications and features are much better than that of Magic Leap 1. Having a superior hand tracking that enabled organic interactions without any wires provides a seemless MR experience which are not replicatable by any of the other MR headsets currently. I believe if the HoloLens 2 continues to develop, it will eventually be commercialised to the masses which would bring down its price.

Lastly, a quick shoutout on latest list of AR headwear:

HeadwearCost (USD)
Vuzix Blade Smart Glasses799
Epson MOVERIO BT-300699
Everysight Raptor649

VR & MR. Which are my personal favourite?

Back in 2016, the first few VR devices were clunky, unwieldy and restrictive. My first encounter with VR, Oculus Rift DK2 (on the left), was no exception. It has two wires sticking out of the console which made head movement restrictive. It (and its camera accessory) had to connect to a computer, which reduced its portability. It itself required a rather powerful graphic card to power it, which made the barrier of entry really high.

Now, in 2020, there are multiple VR devices out there in the market.

  • HTC Vive Pro
  • Oculus Rift
  • Playstation VR
  • Nintendo Labo (well…. it counts)
  • And my personal favourite, Oculus Quest

Wires? Gone. Requirement of a high-end graphics card? Gone.

It’s hard to not love the advancement of VR technology with the release of Oculus Quest. VR experiences lie on the Immersion and Presence factors, and when motion is restrictive, the VR experience is dampened. The Oculus Quest solves that and a number of problems of its predecessors and even improves the immersion with the exclusion of controllers.

Yes, you heard it. Controllers? Gone.

With all those features packed in a portable headset, Oculus Quest is now my personal favourite (for now).

And while I never really encountered Mixed Reality devices in real life before, the current list of devices out there is pretty long for a niche technology

  • Magic Leap One
  • Samsung Odyssey
  • Dimension NXG AjnaLens
  • Nreal Light
  • Zappar Zapbox
  • And my personal favourite, Hololens 2 (and its predecessor, Hololens)

The Hololens 2 caught my eye for the same reasons as Oculus Quest.

Like the Oculus Quest, there is no need for a high-end PC to power it as it has its own mini processor. It’s portable, lightweight and it has hand tracking. While other MR devices may have similar functions, one edge the Hololens 2 has over its competitors is the amount of support it is given from its parent company (Microsoft), in terms of the UX/UI of the internal OS and developer support.

While the Hololens 2 also triumphs in price (Approx 3k, competitors price less), the technology of Hololens 2 makes every dollar count.

A quick review on XR devices

Seeing the step up from the Oculus Rift DK1 to the HTC Vive Pro, the visual quality hasn’t quite improved as much as I expected in 5 years. However, the industry has gone on ahead, with 6DoF, really decent tracking controls and higher refresh rates. More specifically, they have continued developing VR applications, with Valve even releasing a new Half-Life game. Who would’ve thought?

The most exciting trend to me is the development of a budget series of headsets, which definitely didn’t quite exist till recently. The Google Cardboard doesn’t quite count if we’re going to be talking full headsets with motion controls.

Much as cheap Android phones and televisions brought about the new medium to the mass market, it would be terribly safe to say that VR is going to be a thing in the next few years, and that’s why I would like to highlight one of the more prominent mid-range headsets, the Oculus Quest.

The Quest has entered the list of recommendations for the “VR-newbie”, partially offering the experience of the big boys like the Vive and Rift when connected to a PC, yet being an all-in-one package that is also wireless. It may not boast 90Hz+ refresh rates, but it sits squarely at the mid-range with its price. The PC link was a later update, coming in on November 2019, and likely helped boost the headset to its current status of entry-level king.

On the end of MR/AR, there are a few major points to me that I find important in an MR/AR experience. Firstly, as someone who does not wear glasses (weird flex, sorry), I absolutely can not stand the feeling of wearing glasses, and this makes products like the holo-lens and other smart-glasses extremely unappealing to me. Secondly, I currently do not see much value in having an always-on AR application as an average consumer who already spends most of his time looking at a screen anyway. This is not to discount the benefits to those who require assistance in their daily lives, for whom I feel MR/AR has the most use for.

With that in mind, I find the humble(?) smartphone of today to be my preferred way of augmenting reality. Of course, everyone has one these days, and most new smartphones offer multiple cameras which have been used for depth-sensing for selfies. Given that everyone walks around with their smartphones out anyway, I feel they are currently the best way to apply MR/AR applications and have good reach to users.