Transcending Dimensions: Diving into the world of VR/MR headsets


As I will be discussing the latest headsets, I will not be including headsets that are currently deprecated or soon-to-be-deprecated!


The world of VR & MR hardware can be intimidating, and it doesn’t help that manufacturers use complex technical marketing jargon for the purpose of product differentiation. Jargon aside, it is ultimately the immersion and presence that the hardware can provide that triumphs over all.

This article will therefore utilize the 2 main criterion of immersion and presence, to evaluate the latest VR & MR headsets that offer the best user experience.


Immersion entails the ability of the headset to engage with the human experiential senses, i.e. vision, auditory engagement, touch etc.


Presence entails invoking the emotions of the user through putting the user through illusions, illusions that they exist within the virtual space projected by the headset, illusions that the user is really interacting with the entities in the virtual world, etc.

List of Hardware for VR/AR/MR that I think are GREAT

HTC Vive Cosmos


Type – Head Mounted Display for VR


  • FOV – 110 degrees
  • Resolution – 2880 * 1600 combined
  • Refresh Rate – 90Hz
  • Display – LCD
  • Audio – Built-in speakers + option to use own headphones
  • Tracking – Inside-out

The HTC Vive Cosmos’s most attractive feature is perhaps its ability to add on additional external (outside-in) tracking devices such as its optional HTC Base Stations to enhance and improve the performance of its pre-existing integrated inside-out tracking capabilities. This provides an extremely holistic and customizable tracking experience for consumers.

Magic Leap One


Type – Head Mounted Display for MR


  • FOV – 50 degrees
  • Resolution – 2560*1920 combined
  • Refresh Rate – 60Hz
  • Display – Waveguide
  • Audio – Built-in speakers + options for own headphones
  • Tracking – Inside-out + controllers

The Magic Leap One aims to differentiate itself from other competitors such as the Hololens 2 by isolating and separating the computing unit, which reduces the weight of the head-mounted unit and reduces fatigue for the user. Furthermore, the Magic Leap One’s was designed with its intended audience to be consumers, which is corroborated by its numerous partnerships with entertainment companies.

Microsoft Hololens 2

Close-up of MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) display

Type – Head Mounted Display for MR


  • FOV – 30 degrees
  • Resolution – 2536*1440 combined
  • Refresh Rate – 240hz (60hz content rate with 4 individual sequential colors)
  • Display – Waveguide
  • Audio – Built-in speakers + options for own headphones
  • Tracking – Inside-out + controllers

The Microsoft Hololens 2 features see-through holographic lenses with light engines. For haptics, it has 4 light cameras for head tracking, IR cameras for real-time eye tracking. Controllers are not needed for this HMD, as the hololens is able to sense and track the user’s hand gestures. This makes for a more intuitive user experience as users are seemingly able to interact with entities projected by the HMD without the use of any additional hardware.

Samsung HMD Odyssey+

Samsung Odyssey Windows Mixed Reality VR Headset Now Available – Everything  You Need to Know
Source: Samsung

Type – Head Mounted Display for VR


  • FOV – 110 degrees
  • Resolution – 2880 * 1600 combined
  • Refresh Rate – 60Hz, 90Hz
  • Display – AMOLED
  • Audio – Built-in speakers
  • Tracking – Inside-out

Perhaps the most attractive feature of the Samsung Odyssey+ is its AMOLED display, which sets itself apart from its competitors and their generic LCD screens. In theory, AMOLED offers higher peak brightness and color vibrancy as compared to LCD, which may provide a better visual immersion for its users.

The Valve Index

Valve's Index VR headset will ship this June, with preorders starting May  1st - The Verge
Source: Valve

Type – Head Mounted Display for VR


  • FOV – 130 degrees
  • Resolution – 2880 * 1600 combined
  • Refresh Rate – 80, 90, 120Hz (Has experimental 144Hz)
  • Display – LCD
  • Audio – Built-in speakers + option for using your own headphones
  • Tracking – Relies on external (outside-in) tracking system (base stations), while it is sold with the Valve Base Station 2.0, this HMD is also backwards compatible with previous HTC Vive base stations

Valve Base Station 2.0


Type – External Tracking Device

The Valve Base Station 2.0 is compatible with the VIVE Pro, VIVE Pro Eye or Cosmos Elite. as well as the Valve Index.

Each base station has a range of 7 meters, each with a FOV of 160 x 115 degrees. Up to 4 base stations can be used at once, for an up to 10m x 10m play space.

My Most Preferred Devices

VR – The Valve Index + Base Station 2.0


The Valve Index boasts a wide range of refresh rates, from 80Hz up to an experimental 144Hz. This creates a smooth and realistic visual experience. This is important for the visual immersion aspect of the user’s experience as higher refresh rates offer lesser ghosting, less screen tearing. For fast paced games such as FPS games, higher refresh rates can offer a competitive edge as a result of this smoother experience

The Valve Index also has the widest FOV (130 degrees) amongst all the the other latest VR headsets in the market today, such as the Oculus Quest 2, and the HTC Vive Cosmos. This offers the closest experience to the FOV of the human eye (210 degrees). Although there is still much to be desired, this is the best we have. With a wider FOV, entails a smaller size of black borders that are endemic with VR headsets with smaller FOVs, which contributes to a greater illusion of being in a stable spatial space and physical interaction. These features reduces the chances of a fourth-wall-breaking experience.

The Valve Index also allows for external headphones to be used in lieu of the in-built speakers provided by the headset. This allows the user to fine-tune their auditory experience to their liking and comfort level. For example, using noise-cancelling headphones to create greater isolation from external noise, which improves auditory immersion.

The Valve Index relies on external tracking via base stations. The external tracking system allows for more precise tracking of the user within the play space, being able to triangulate the user’s location within the space in ways that an internal tracking system can’t. The precision to which each gesture is captured adds to the illusion of self-embodiment of the user in the virtual world.

MR – Microsoft Hololens 2

Close-up of MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) display

Comparing the Magic Leap One vs Microsoft’s Hololens 2, the Hololens 2 provides an overall more intuitive experience due to its hand-tracking technology. Unlike the Magic Leap One, the Hololens 2 offers a controller-less and hands-free tracking experience which significantly improves the sensory immersion aspect of touch.

Furthermore, since the Magic Leap One’s headset is separated from the computing unit, it requires a cable to be connected to it which introduces fourth-wall breaking inconveniences such as cable drag and microphonic noises.

Lastly, the Hololens 2 boasts a blazing-fast refresh rate of 240hz over the Magic Leap One’s 60hz, which offers an unparalleled visual experience that is smooth and lag-free.

However, we also have to bear in mind that the Magic Leap One’s intended users are everyday consumers, and its $1000 USD price difference as compared to the Hololens 2 is testament to that. As such, although it is easy to chalk up these discrepancies in technical features as cost-cutting measures, the Magic Leap One provides an accessible entry point for the everyday consumer looking to dive into the world of MR.

A Quest for the Best VR and MR Devices

Upon being given this assignment, the first question I thought was how was I supposed to give a concrete and accurate review of a headset without owning one myself? Even so, having used several of them in public demonstrations and going through passionate online reviews in hopes of buying one myself eventually, I had an idea of what I would like for my first headset. There are many different kinds of headsets built for different platforms with their own unique features and purposes. For this, there are several categories of specifications that I have considered while choosing my preferred headsets such as, the price, comfort and ease of use, space needs, productivity and performance, as well as how immersive it feels.

VR, AR, MR, we are spoilt for choice in every category.

VR Devices Considered:

There are many kinds of VR headsets that I have considered, the first of which being Google Cardboard due to its cheap price and extreme portability. This made me consider other mobile VR headsets as well such as the Homido and Zeiss VR One. They are one of the most light-weight headsets under the $100 price range and also do not require any space or lengthy procedures to set up which makes it really accessible. However, headsets such as the Google Cardboard have simple but clunky controls, most include turning your head and staring at a button for some time to click it which isn’t exactly the smoothest experience that you can get. As an entry-level headset, it is still a decent choice that requires little commitment and budget.

It also comes with so many different designs and customizations.

Preferred VR Device: Occulus Quest 2

One of the best VR headsets that are currently available which I would love to own, would be the Oculus Quest 2. It has a very beautiful white design and built-in speakers which are really great. This provides a really immersive experience, eliminating the need for external speakers or additional headsets. Its sleek controllers are also one of the best in terms of comfort and battery life, lasting even longer than the headset’s battery itself. Another feature that I really love about the Oculus Quest 2 is that it has no need for external tracking base stations like the Valve Index. You can set up your playing area by just drawing it which makes it really flexible in my opinion. Its weight has also improved from the previous Oculus Quest along with an affordable price tag of USD 299 to 399.

The best parts of Oculus Quest 2 has got to be the fact that it can be used both as a standalone headset as well as a PC VR headset that is accessible using a fiber-optic cable called the Oculus Link which makes it extremely versatile. Occulus also has one of the greatest software support behind it with a store full of amazing games that you can play as a standalone device. The developers make constant updates with the graphics improving and getting crispier every version. Its resolution and refresh rate is also one of the best in VR devices with at 1832 x 1920 and 90Hz as well as 6 degrees of freedom allowing for greater freedom of movement. In a nutshell, these amazing features make it one of the best choices available in the market right now as an all-in-one VR headset.

A clear improvement in graphics from version 1 to version 23 in Occulus Quest 2.

MR Devices Considered:

The GodView 5K Glasses, an impressive name for such a small device and one of the best in terms of design that I have come across. For one, it does not look like you are wearing a huge block on your head but instead more like a pair of sunglasses which is also what the industry strives for as headsets get lighter and less bulky each year. It is also multi-compatible with most devices and claims to sport a 5K high resolution of 5120 x 2880 pixels. In terms of environment tracking however, it is almost non-existent and is more suited for watching a movie on a big TV screen as it is literally just a screen in front of you. In terms of purpose, it would be perfect as an extended screen that you can use on the go. However, after further research, I found out that this device actually has really bad latency and image quality with a blurring effect on the edges of the video. It also has really bad heat problems which makes it bad for long-term use therefore I’ll be passing on this one as it seems like it still needs a lot of improvements and is too early in its development stages.

The God View, great design but still too early in most aspects.

Preferred MR Headset: Microsoft Hololens 2

After seeing multiple demos and reviews of MR headsets, I have to say, the Microsoft Hololens is one of the absolute best as of current. Firstly, it has one of the best ergonomics and looks extremely comfortable to wear compared to some of the bulkier headsets such as the HP MR Headset. This is also one of the most important categories for me when looking for an MR headset, as bulkier headsets will not allow for long hours of use and an immersive user experience. Moreover, it also has an impressive 2K resolution of 2048 x 1080 pixels. In terms of environment understanding, it has improved spatial mapping capabilities compared to the first Hololens which means it will be able to understand at a faster rate. This, as well as 4 visible light cameras which means that it is able to track more movements, allowing for more interactivity with the environment.

Although I believe that the Hololens 2 is one of the best MR devices currently, I still feel that it is slightly too expensive being priced at $3500 and understandably so, as it is targetted at companies, for business use. Other similar devices such as the Magic Leap One also costs at least a few thousand dollars which is why I feel that they still have ways to go before reaching the consumer market.

All in all, I am excited to see what the industry has to offer in the future and surely we will see leaps and bounds in the development of VR, AR, and MR technologies in the years to come.

Game Analysis: Slay the spire

Slay the spire is a rouge-like card game, with heavy focus on random generation, strategy and synergy.

Rouge-likes such as slay the spire are increasing in popularity, such as those of Spelunky, Binding of Isaac and Darkest Dungeon. Rouge-likes test the player on their game knowledge such as the ability to predict enemy movements, synergy between items etc. Rouge-likes are amazing in the sense that (almost) no two games are similar – your encounter is randomized and so are your rewards. RPGs reward players by strengthening their main character with systems such as skill trees or levels. However, slay the spire takes a different approach of rewarding players by unlocking more cards and even characters, adding on to their potential arsenal. This increases the replayability of the game and motivates players to see more content as they spend more time on the game. We see something similar in another rouge-likes such as One step from Eden and Binding of Isaac

One key feature of the combat in slay the spire is cards. Cards are crucial in fighting encounters. Cards present a potentially deep strategy in general such as those we see in trading card games and board games that we are usually exposed to, but i’ll just name a few. Cards present randomness: having more copies of the same card increases the chance of you getting the card when you really need it. At the same time, having more cards in your deck makes it harder for you to draw other cards that you might have fewer copies of. Another concept of card games is synergy. In this game, cards synergies with each other, as well as the collectible relics you get along the way. An example of a synergy could be having a relic that deals more damage as you play more cards and having cards that generate draws and lower energy costs, allowing you to essentially deal more damage while lowering the resource costs.

Slay the Spire review – an electrifying sense of chaos | Games | The  Guardian
Types of cards you expect to see in slay the Spire.

Lens 2: The lens of essential experience

I believe that all rougelikes, just like Slay the Spire, aim to give the player a unique experience every time they play the game. Despite having the same rules, mechanics, enemies and themes, it never gets boring as no 2 encounters are the same.

Essentially, it is the same rules, themes, enemies and elements, but the cycle of repetition is broken with its unique encounters every time a new game is made.

Lens 4: The lens of surprise

Some rooms in the dungeon are unknown to the player. Possible outcomes such as a random marketplace, events and taking gambles to improve or worsen the player’s core stats are hidden from the player. The player may choose to enter the rooms or pick a different route.

Furthermore, enemy encounters and their respective rewards are not shown to the player prior to the encounter. It is up to the player to take the risk to either fight against a stronger encounter for a better reward, or weaker encounters for standard rewards. Also, rewards are randomised and players are given a choice to choose one that fits their current run or playstyle. Players might also be surprised to see rewards and enemies not encountered before on previous runs.

Lens 8: The lens of problem solving

As a rougelike that plays out like an RPG, Slay the Spire plays out very differently in terms of how it presents enemy actions to the player. In some RPGs, enemies have some sort of “windup” to pre-amp the player when the enemies are about to make a certain move. This is more common in games such as Dark Souls and some MMORPGs, where figuring out the actions of the boss through animations are core gameplay elements. In slay the spire, you essentially can see what action each and every enemy will definitely be performing after your turn, allowing you to play the cards you currently have in your hand to the best of their advantage.

Lens 27: Time

An average game of slay the spire will not go over 1 hour. The game ends when you defeat the final boss and you unlock the next difficulty of the game. This way, it puts a final stop to any systems you have probably abused through synergies. Also, it will not make the game too repetitive from letting the player abuse the same synergies for the entire game.

Also, time can refer to number of turns in this game. Some enemies get stronger as you spend more time during that encounter, forcing the player to be more aggressive and think of how to fit their current cards and relic to overcome the encounter.

Outscaling the Time Eater : slaythespire
One aspect time is used in this game: Number of turns. This boss “Time Eater” will do massive damage if it is not defeated fast enough.

Lens 36: Chance

As with the elements of all rougelikes, all encounters are based on chance. Chance dictates the cards you will get, rooms and enemies you will encounter, what the market sells and the cards you draw from the deck. Of course, chance is something that is up to the player to manipulate to some extent. Players can fight with a thick deck, allowing them to have more tools in their arsenal to fight different kinds of enemies, however, players may not be able to draw the cards that they want at the appropriate time (That may be mitigated by draw engines but that’s another topic for discussion). Players with a thinner deck can expect to draw the same cards. However, that can be a good if the player’s strategy uses the same cards to abuse a particular synergy.

In summary, Slay the spire is game with many mechanics that blend well together. Many different elements allow the players to comeback from a bad run. Conversely, it can also worsen a player’s run if they do not take note of these other elements. Through randomly generated runs, players can expect to see the same enemies, same cards and same relics while having a different experience every time.


All in all, slay the spire presents itself as an unknown labyrinth of characters, bosses, hidden synergies and cards that players will see as they progress through the game. I would highly recommend this to any person who is a fan of card games and rougelikes in general.

Virtual and Mixed Reality Devices Analysis

I will be picking my preferred virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) devices by doing research on some devices out in the market and making comparisons between them.

Virtual Reality

For VR devices, I will be looking at HTC Vive Cosmos, Oculus Quest 2, and Valve Index.

For the HTC Vive Cosmos, what attracted me is that the faceplate of the device can be changed to use different tracking options. This is great as for some users, they may not be keen to set up base stations. However, since the faceplate is a separate purchase, switching between tracking options comes at a cost, and the other faceplate that is not in use will essentially be e-waste. The device is not exactly cheap as well coming in at USD$699.

Next is the Oculus Quest 2. This device is interesting as it can be used as a standalone device. This is great for people who do not want to purchase a computer just to experience VR. But if the user does have a decent computer, they can choose to connect it to the PC. The price is also very competitive compared to other options, with cost starting from only USD$300. One downside is that the device requires the use of your Facebook account. As we know recently there have been many concerns about privacy, and I know people who do not even have an account anymore due to this reason.

Finally, we will look at the Valve Index. This is the most expensive of the bunch coming in at USD$999. Features wise, the specified numbers are quite impressive. While the resolution per eye is not the best, it has the highest adjustable FOV of up to 130° and the highest refresh rate of up to 144 Hz. Having a high refresh rate is very beneficial as it will be less disorienting, and it will be harder for the user to perceive frame updates/tearing. This allows more users to experience presence easily.

Figure 1. Oculus Quest 2

To conclude, I will say that Oculus Quest 2 is my preferred device due to the low cost of entry, especially with the fact that a strong enough PC is usually needed for a pleasant VR experience. Having a low cost of entry will also allow more VR devices to be in use, allowing for more reasons to invest in VR development. However, I do hope that the requirement of a Facebook account will be removed in the future.

Mixed Reality

For MR devices, I will be looking at 2 very prominent device out there, the Microsoft Hololens 2 and the Magic Leap 1.

For Microsoft Hololens 2, what struck me immediately was the cost, being at USD$3500. But the features are definitely not lacking. It has an incredible resolution of 2048 x 1080 per eye which is important as having a sharp image of a virtual object being displayed in the world will not only make it easier to make out the smaller details, but also provides a truer to life experience as it is harder to discern the pixels. Moreover, users that require prescription glasses can simply wear the headset over it. However, the device can be quite heavy, weighing in at 566g.

Next is the Magic Leap 1. It cost a little lesser at USD$2295. What is interesting about this is that the company decided to separate the computation hardware from the headset and allow the user to wear it at waist level. This makes the headset weigh only 316g. For users wearing glasses, prescription inserts must be purchased. This also means that the user must carry their own glasses around so that they can put them on when not using the headset. The prescription inserts also have a limit to the amount of correction and some people may not be able to use the device.

Figure 2. Microsoft Hololens 2

Overall, my preferred device is the Microsoft Hololens 2. As someone who suffers from a very serious case of myopia, having the ability to use my glasses along with the device is extremely valuable to me. I also believe that the higher resolution display will allow a better experience overall.