VR & MR Headsets

Hi, I am a undergraduate student in my last semester. My name is Randy Pang Chung and this would be my first blog post here and in my life.

The topic is about my favourite VR and MR headsets but to be frank, I do not own any headset nor have I ever tried one. This is just my opinion based on what I’ve seen and heard.

Firstly, of all the VR headset, I only know of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation VR (PSVR) headset. Out of these three, I would be more interested in the PSVR as I more actively play console games as opposed to PC games.

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Playstation VR headset, contoller and camera

However, the Oculus’ controllers, the Oculus Touch strikes me as the best controller with its compactness and ergonomic design. Its design similar to console controllers also strike my fancy.

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Oculus Touch

As for the MR headsets, from what I have seen from brief search on the web, the best in my opinion is Microsoft’s HoloLens.

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While, I would be fine gaming on a tethered VR headset, I feel that a MR headset that incorporates the physical world into the image, the headset should allow the user the freedom to roam about, else it would restrict application of the technology if the user is bound to the room.

VR/MR Review

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The first ever VR headset that I have tried on was an Oculus Rift DK2 for my Orbital Project. Back when I used DK2, the cable runs over the back of the head which sometimes can drop down over the neck or shoulders, feels like it’s in the way. The screen resolution was not ideal, and the headset is heavy, making it uncomfortable over prolonged use. Not only that, the camera must be connected to a computer, thus restricting some movements.

From my experience then, the factors that I looked out for in a VR headset are,

  1. Comfortable even for prolonged use
  2. High screen resolution and sound
  3. Freedom of movement and minimal physical restrictions
  4. Easy & Quick Set up and configuration

The latest VR head mount displays ranking high on the list are:

HTC Vive, Oculus Quest, Sony PlayStation VR, Google Daydream View, Oculus Rift S.

Here are the list of VR Headsets

Looking through the list, my most preferred device is Oculus Quest.

Image result for oculus quest

The Oculus Quest VR headset is wire-free with six-degrees-of-freedom motion tracking and two controllers, and all without the need for a separate computer to use it. It is reasonably priced at US$399 and cheaper compared to HTC Vive Pro ($599). The graphics are high res and stunning with an OLED display panel with 1440 x 1600 per eye solution and powered by Snapdragon 835 processor. It also takes room scalability into consideration, so the user doesn’t accidentally hit the wall.

The setting up of the headset is quick and easy just by using the Oculus mobile app, apps are downloaded right to the headsets onboard. The user is also able to share their VR experience with others via smartphone or tv.

The only downside to Oculus Quest is that it has slight light leakage and it has a short battery life, lasting only 2-3 hours.

However, compared to the other headsets in the list, Oculus Quest has fulfilled my criteria and is my most preferred device. From Hassle-free set up and configuration to an immersive experience anywhere with no wires and having self-contained tracking with full six degree of freedom motion to high-resolution built-in speakers, this is the excellent VR for a standalone device, and it is reasonably priced.

As for MR, my most preferred device is Microsoft HoloLens 2.

List of MR Headsets

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It is light, gaze and eye tracking capabilities, allowing voice commands and easy to adjust. No restrictions on physical movements as it is wireless. It also supports gaze, gesture and voice controls and able to track your eyes to see what you are focusing on. HoloLens 2 allows the wearer to interact more intuitively with holograms, such as grabbing and rotating them.

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It is comfortable for people who wear prescription lenses (like me) and the fact that it has a flip up visor, allowing the user to just flip it up to make eye contact easily. Despite its price tag, I think it’s the best so far for me.

In addition, here’s the list of AR headwear

Current XR Devices (Review)

Thanks to advances in both technology and commoditization of components and overall products, XR has become more and more common. Now, it can even be included in your everyday smartphones, game systems, and plenty of others devices. The development that goes into the hardware and software has also begun to be streamlined, so it is much easier to have access to these devices than it was, say 5 years ago.

So without further ado, here are some current XR devices that don’t come 1st to mind.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Nintendo Labo (VR Kit)

Nintendo Labo are a set of “toys come to life”, as Nintendo puts it. They are cardboard sets that encourage building, engineering, programming, and of course, playing games. Each set comes with a number of designs and minigames that correspond to each Labo design.
However, we will be focusing on the VR kit.

There are 6 designs included with the VR kit:
* VR goggles
* Camera
* Bird
* Wind flap
* Blaster
* Elephant
And in particular with the VR kit, it is compatible with some other non-Labo titles such as:
* Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
* Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
* Super Mario Odyssey
* Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
The VR kit also allows you to write your own small minigames.

+ Gives the skills of building and programming to beginners– No strap for the head
+ Lots of variety both in Labo kits themselves, as well as this particular VR kit– Only 3 DoF
+ Able to create your own games, furthering creating your own experiences– Pricey and a bit flimsy (USD $80)
+ Wireless– Timely setup
+ Starter pack is cheap (USD $40 for goggles and blaster)– Short games
– Poor visuals (720p screen and 2 lenses)
– Cardboard granules appear after use, lots of cleaning

Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard is Google’s current foray in XR, as well as their most successful. Previously, they tried their hand with Google Glass, an AR set of glasses, and Daydream, an enhanced Cardboard.
But seeing as they failed, we will continue with Cardboard.

Seeing as Google Cardboard is just a cardboard headset with a phone placed in there, it functions about the same as a normal smartphone would. That being said, there is a Cardboard app that pairs your phone and allows you to tap into VR apps more. The momentum for Cardboard has been falling, due to no killer apps.

+ Open-source– No standards in development
+ Cheap (USD $15)– Resolution and refresh rate is only as good as your phone
+ Easy to assemble– Makes VR seem gimmicky
+ Inspired many cheaper methods to achieve VR– Lots of knockoff headsets that, admittedly are more stable
– Easier to experience dizziness and nausea, since the screen is 2 in from your face
– No dedicated controller comes with the device, unless you have a Daydream (failed) or buy a controller separately

Relativ (Relativty)

Relativty is a completely open-source, DIY VR headset. Built using Arduino, anyone is able to create, develop, and contribute to this small project. This project pretty much just focuses on the headset itself, but others in the community have made games and peripherals for this.
Because it’s 100% open-sourced and relatively new as of writing, there’s only so much I can comment on, so I will leave the site and GitHub below:

+ 100% open-source– Arduino Due sensors don’t work well, so that code is being deprecated
+ 9 DoF is coming– No standards in development
+ Multiple 3D-printable models exist– No controllers (at least officially supported ones) exist, but are in development
+ Small, but active community– Check the 3D models on the sizes of components, as they might not be the same as the ones listed in the Wiki
+ Based on OSVR– Not standalone
+Works with SteamVR
+ 100% customizable to individual needs, due to being open-source and Arduino-based

Winner: Relativ (Relativty)
I love open-source projects and I love DIY projects. I also have a bit of a bias, as I recently just built this and am trying to figure out controller support. If you just want to have a go at VR on your own, I’d highly recommend this, as you get a basic idea on the ins-and-outs of what’s in a VR headset, as well as specify this to your own needs.
For all the materials, it was supposed to cost around USD $100, but I was able to get it down to about USD $80.

Augmented Reality (AR) / Mixed Reality (MR)

Vuzix Blade

The Blade, unlike the other glasses in Vuzix’s lineup, bill themselves as a head’s up display rather than a fully MR device. The OS is Android, and while you can somewhat use it as a standard Android device, there are several apps developed specifically for the Blade.

Some companies that have developed or worked with the Blade include:
* Amazon
* Accuweather
* Yelp
* Google

+ Simplistic UI– Bulky and uncomfortable
+ Alexa is built-in– Has few apps optimized for it
+ Rechargeable battery, with up to 8 hours– Pricey (USD $800)
+ Touch pad– Battery drains very fast
+ Motion detection
+ Expandable memory via MicroSD

Magic Leap 1

Magic Leap 1 is the 1st generation MR device from Magic Leap. It uses its own custom OS known as LuminOS. LuminOS is designed with spatial computing in mind, dealing with motion detection and object placement.

There have been a number of games and art installations revolving around using the Magic Leap 1, and the 2 is on the way. But since it is the 1st of the company’s, there is only so much software.

+ 8 GB RAM, 128 GB of storage– Very little software
+ Comes with controller– Pricey (USD $2295)
+ Custom OS to fit the needs of the device– To use the simulations, you have to hook it up to a battery pack
+ Sleek design, comfortable– Battery life of 3.5 hours
+ Motion detection for head, hands, and eyes; object placement and interaction

Varjo XR-1

Varjo’s XR-1 is the 1st of the company’s Mixed Reality line. It is mainly aimed at businesses and in the field of medicine. As a full on headset, the virtual view can be turned off in favor of the real world view.

The main use cases of the XR-1 is for R&D teams, as seen by the requirements for using it. It has near photorealism in the virtual world.

+ High-end graphics– Very pricey (USD $10000)
+ Can go in and out of virtual world– High requirements for use
+ Motion detection and object placement– Use cases are currently only for businesses and R&D
– Some of the photorealism leans into the uncanny valley
– Not standalone, tethered

Winner: Magic Leap 1
While still in the early stages, the Magic Leap 1 shows a lot of promise in all industries. LuminOS seems to work relatively well, considering its not even in 1.0 yet. If the price can be lowered and more developers get interested, I think the Magic Leap will not only be a good competitor for Microsoft, but a great device to own.

My favourite VR and MR

The best VR headsets of 2020
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Oculus Quest

In 2020 there are many options for VR hardware. My personal preference are standalone headsets as I prefer the freedom and don’t need to worry about tripping over wires. I also believe that this leads to greater freedom with designing applications for VR as it does not restrict the movements of the user. Because of this, I am choosing the Oculus Quest as my favourite VR headset. The Oculus Quest uses outward-facing cameras to provide 6DOF motion tracking, and uses Oculus Touch motion controls. Combined with a faster Snapdragon 835 processor makes this VR headset incredibly immersive.

Best MR Headsets
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Hololens 2

In terms of choosing my favourite MR headset it would definitely be the Hololens 2 (assuming that money wasn’t an issue). I have had the opportunity to try out the Hololens when it first came out and I was in awe. It seamlessly blends real life and computer generated graphics and had so many useful applications. This version is even lighter, a custom AI chip to improve performance and has a wider field of view so I think it would be even more impressive.

Latest VR/AR/MR Devices

VR Devices

Device/Feature Unique Features Minimum Specs Include Year Released
Oculus Rift S – Built-in speakers
– Tethered
– 80Hz refresh rate
– 360 degrees tracking
– 95 degrees FOV
– 6DOF controllers
Intel i3-6100 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200, FX4350, NVIDIA GTX 960 4 GB or AMD Radeon R9 290, 8 GB RAM – Headband – Left-right controllers – Optical cable 2019
Oculus Quest – Built-in speakers
– Untethered
– 72Hz refresh rate
– Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor – 360 degrees tracking
– 95 degrees FOV
– 6DOF controllers
– 2.5 hours of battery life
None – Headband – Left-right controllers   2019
Oculus Go – Built-in speakers
– Untethered
– 360 degrees tracking
– 95 degrees FOV
– 3DOF controller (cannot track position)
– 2-2.5 hours of battery life
None – Headband
– One controller  
Vive Pro – External headphones
– Wireless (purchasable wireless adapter with 2.5 hours of battery life)
– Integrated eye tracking version available
– 360 degrees tracking with base stations (outside-in tracking)
– 110 degrees FOV
– 6DOF controllers
– AMOLED screens
Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290, 4 GB RAM – Headband – Left-right controllers
– 2 base stations
Vive Cosmos – External headphones
– Wireless (purchasable wireless adapter with 2.5 hours of battery life)
– 310 degrees tracking with cameras
– Flip-up visor design
– 110 degrees FOV
– 6DOF controllers
– Integrated sensors
Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350, NVIDIA  GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290, 4 GB RAM – Headband – Left-right controllers 2019
Valve Index – 130 degrees FOV with adjustable eye relief and IPD
– Tethered
– RGB LCD screens
– External headphones that do not touch ears
– 80/90/120Hz – 6DOF controllers
– No wireless option available for now  
Dual Core CPU, Nvidia GeForce  GTX 970 or AMD RX480, 8 GB RAM – Headband – Left-right controllers
– 2 base stations

Out of all the listed VR devices above, the one I like the most (based on the description and research on the internet) is Oculus Quest, but if price is disregarded then it would be Vive Pro Eye. The points that I consider when making that decision are the price to quality ratio, design, wireless capability, and sensors.

I personally prefer untethered to tethered devices, which is strongly supported by the possibility that our legs may get tangled because VR activities mostly require body movements and that is quite dangerous, so there are 3 devices that fit the preference: Oculus Quest, Vive Pro and Vive Cosmos (by purchasing wireless adapter). Next thing to consider is the platform support. For Oculus Quest, it is not possible to connect to SteamVR unless you want to perform additional actions to make it possible (e.g. using Vridge or purchasing Oculus Link). Meanwhile, Vive Pro and Vive Cosmos support steamVR from the get-go and an alternative called Viveport. Having more options is always a nice thing, which is why I lean towards Vive VR devices in this category.

Aesthetically speaking, Oculus Quest wins in this department in my book due to its simplistic design. However, it may not be comfortable when worn on the head because it is quite heavy since all the hardware (CPU, memory, storage, graphics, etc.) that makes it wireless and the sensors contribute to the additional weight of the headset.

Oculus Quest

Having external sensors is not all that bad to me, they just require an initial setup to your room, thus not adding more weight to the headset which Vive Pro trumps at. If we are comparing Vive Pro to Vive Cosmos, I would rather have the former device. On top of not adding weights to the headset, outside-in tracking system (in Vive case the “base stations”) excels more at precision tracking than integrated sensors (inside-out tracking) which Vive Cosmos has. Plus, if you happen to use a software that takes eyes movement as an input, Vive Pro Eye got that covered.

When we are talking about price tag, however, Vive Pro is the most expensive out of all 3 options and that is not even including the wireless adapter or the eye tracking upgrade. Again, my choice would be Vive Pro Eye if price is not an issue.

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Vive Pro Eye

AR Devices

Device/Feature Unique Features Type Year Released
Vuzix Blade – Quad-core ARM CPU
– 8 Megapixel camera
– Android OS
– Head motion trackers
– Touch pad
– Wi-fi compatible
– Voice commands and control
– Haptic vibration alerts
– 19 degrees to 28 degrees FOV
– 2-2.5 hours of battery life
Smartglasses 2019
Wayray Navion – SLAM capability
– 4G connection
– 30ft distance to virtual image
– Advanced inertial sensors and GPS
– 8 degrees x 4 degrees FOV  
Holographic navigation system for cars TBD
Apple ARKit 3 – 2D and 3D object detection and tracking
– Plane detection
– Face detection
– Light Estimation
– SLAM capability  
Smartphone AR SDK 2019

First of all, I would like to say that AR devices that exist in the present come in various forms and purposes (smartglasses, projector, AR SDK kits, etc.), so it is harder for me to decide which one I like as each of them may excel in their own field. But for smartglasses, Vuzix Blade is up there on my personal preference.

Vuzix Blade

Vuzix blade, for example, is very similar to the predecessor of AR smartglasses, which is Google Glass. It works just like Google Glass, in essence it is a smartphone in form of a pair of glasses. But instead of the information being displayed on a smartphone screen, it is all displayed on your glasses screen. Notifications, calls, messages, taking photos or even yelp review when looking at a restaurant. Notable improvement from Google Glass such as the design: Vuzix Blade design is a huge step up from Google Glass. Google Glass design is widely criticized due to making the wearer looks goofy. However, Vuzix Blade looks just like any other trendy glasses. It is hard to tell if they are actually a pair of smartglasses unless someone takes a closer look.

Unfortunately there is an inconvenient downside of Vuzix Blade. They do not have speakers, so you have to use the Bluetooth function to pair it with your smartphone or Bluetooth headset when calling someone or listening to Alexa’s feedbacks.

Wayray Navion is another interesting and unique AR device for me, as it is a holographic AR navigation system used for cars by projecting layers of information to the car windshield. Some of the features are displaying speedometer, additional UI to warn the driver of an incoming pedestrian crossing the street, GPS system (routes and directions), and building identification.

Wayray Navion (picture taken from

MR Devices

Device/Feature Unique Features Minimum Requirements Type Year Released
Microsoft Hololens 2 – Untethered
– 52 degrees FOV
– Wi-fi compatible
– Flip-up visor design
– 8 Megapixel camera
– Eye tracking
– Built-in speakers
– Voice commands and control
– 6DOF controllers
– Qualcomm Snapdragon 850
– 2-3 hours of battery life
None Head-mounted display TBD (limited release in 2019)
Magic Leap 1 – 40 degrees FOV
– Wi-fi compatible
– 128GB storage
– 3.5 hours of battery life
– Haptic vibration feedback
– Eye tracking
– Voice commands and control
– NVIDIA Parker SOC, 2 Denver 2.0 64-bit cores + 4 ARM Cortex A57 64-bit cores – NVIDIA Pascal, 256 CUDA cores Graphic GPU
– 128GB storage capacity
– 6DOF controllers
None Head-mounted display 2018 (beta version), officially released for enterprise in 2019
Varjo XR-1 – 2×12 Megapixel cameras
– Eye tracking
– Tethered
– 87 degree FOV
-Photorealistic virtual objects
Intel Core i7-7820X , NVIDIA GeForce® RTX 2080 Ti, or NVIDIA Quadro RTX 6000, 32GB RAM Head-mounted display 2019

There are not a lot of true MR devices existing in the public. Windows Mixed Reality devices, for example, are classified as VR headsets even though they have mixed reality as parts of the name. For MR category, my choice of device would be Varjo XR-1. It has the features of switching from MR to fully VR easily, photorealistic virtual objects, a very wide FOV, and ultra low latency. Those are all the attributes needed for a MR device to create an immersive experience of mixed reality, and Varjo XR-1 has it all, of course, with a hefty price tag.

Magic Leap 1

While Microsoft Hololens 2 and Magic Leap 1 project holographic objects (to which they do refer the virtual objects created by their respective devices as holograms) that are a little bit transparent (see-through), Varjo XR-1 offers a more immersive experience by rendering the objects to be solid and photorealistic. Not to mention, there is also a pretty crucial existing problem to Magic Leap 1. When virtual objects are approached and very short distance is left between them and the wearer, part of the objects are cut off from sight depending on how close you are. Personally, that would really decrease the immersion value by a lot, and there is also the hologram-like objects reducing more of the immersion.

Varjo XR-1

HW devices

List of latest HWs that I think are great: [VR] Oculus Go, [VR] HTC Vive Pro, [AR] Vuzix Blade Smart Glasses, [MR] Microsoft HoloLens, [MR] Acer Mixed Reality headset

Preferred device for VR: Oculus Go

  • Large library of apps
  • Comfortable to use
  • Easy to use
  • No phones needed
  • 2560×1400 resolution
  • Built in speakers and mics
  • Voice search

Preferred device for MR: HP Windows Mixed Reality headset

  • Easy to setup
  • Comfortable to wear
  • No need to attach additional sensors to use it
  • Works on a wide range of computer hardware
  • Sharp display

My criteria for a good VR/MR headset mostly depends on the user experience that it can provide. The installation and setup of the headset has to be fuss free with no need for additional software or hardware installation. Ideally, the user should be able to use the headset once the button is turned on. While the user uses the headset, it should be comfortable enough such that the user does not think of removing the headset during the experience. Last but not least, the graphics and resolution has to be high enough to provide an experience similar to real life.