This is a post about my personal review on my most preferred devices for Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR). I have had some experience in trying on several VR headsets, in particular the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR. However, during that time the hardware devices made for VR were usually quite heavy to wear and there were other components (such as long wires, controllers) that the user has to equip on as well to complement the entire virtual experience. I remembered that I was facing some difficulty in trying to maneuver around while playing some VR games because of that and also, I was not able to withstand wearing the headset for less than 30 minutes. After conducting my research, I have listed below some of the latest hardware devices for VR and MR that are currently hot in the consumer market right now.
First off, we have the TactSuit X series (X40 and X16) from bHaptics, which is a haptic suit that is VR ready. Wearing the suit allows the user to feel different haptic patterns that are pre-embedded in VR games such as Population: One and Half-Life: Alynx. The TactSuit X40 is able to provide haptic feedback in 40 points (ERM Motors), while the X16 is able to do so in 16 points. The device uses Bluetooth 4.0 and audio ports for connectivity. It has native support for Steam VR and Audio-to-Haptics (technology that converts audio signals into haptic feedback in real-time). For Platform Availability, PS4, PSVR, Xbox are all supported but only for Audio-to-Haptics mode. The playtime is about 18 hours and the time required for a full charge is 5 hours. The weight is also below 2kg (0.95kg for the X16, 1.7kg for the X40). In terms of Price, it is retailing for the consumer market for $499 for the X40 and $299 for the X16. Enabling Bluetooth connectivity also eliminates many of the nuances that come with using tethering. Another similar haptic suit in the market right now is the Teslasuit, however since the device is mainly targeted towards the enterprise audience so perhaps, we shall leave this one out.
The path to wireless VR gaming has given rise to many companies to develop better VR headsets for extra mobility for the user. One such popular headset is the Oculus Quest 2, which is the successor to the Oculus Quest. With Quest 2, there is a multi-generational leap in processing power with their state-of-the-art Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Platform which offers higher AI capability, and with 6GB of RAM. The new display features 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye, which makes VR multiplayer games and productivity apps look even better than before. The game controllers that come with Oculus Quest 2 are designed with better ergonomics and longer battery life. The headset, however, seems to only be able to last between 2-3 hours which is kind of short. If the user is playing some intensive VR games, the battery might drain out fast. In terms of connectivity, the Oculus Quest 2 offers complete wireless freedom, as well as tethered options. The device only weighs 503g and supports 6 DoF (Degree of Freedom) head and hand tracking through integrated Oculus Insight Technology. The Oculus Quest 2 is retailing at the price of $299, which is in the same price range as the TactSuit above.
Next up in the VR category, is a prototype VR glasses that are currently in development by Panasonic. The earlier prototype was unveiled in CES 2020 before it was further remodeled to an improved version in CES 2021. It is the world’s first High Dynamic Range (HDR) capable ultra-high definition (UHD) VR eyeglasses which boasts a comfortable fit that makes the user feel as if they were wearing eyeglasses. Panasonic’s audio and visual technologies are incorporated into this new device, including signal processing technologies cultivated through the development of video equipment such as TVs, Blu-ray Disc players, acoustic technologies of Technics audio products and optical technologies used in LUMIX digital cameras. It is worthy to note that this new device does not need a headband like conventional VR wearables. As such, it can be deemed that the intended usage for this set of VR glasses is for productivity apps such as attending online meetings, VR sports viewing or virtual travel experiences, rather than playing VR games.
Preferred VR Choice: Oculus Quest 2 (2020)
My preferred choice for the latest hardware device for VR is by no doubt, the Oculus Quest 2. In terms of immersive experience, the Quest 2 offers the user much greater field of vision (360 degrees) compared to the Panasonic VR glasses (100 degrees). While the TactSuit brings forth the next generation of VR equipment to allow the user to feel haptic feedback on his body, I assume that the entire immersive experience will not be as full dive with the Quest 2 since the Quest 2 offers both audio and visual stimuli. In terms of comfort, to fully enjoy the immersive experience, the Quest 2 comes with a headband and a set of controllers. The Panasonic VR glasses, on the other hand, attempts to alleviate the heavy-weight of conventional VR headsets with a compact and light-weight design that resembles optical glasses. However, the concern of prolonged wear on the VR glasses still remains in question since it is still substantially heavier than a normal pair of glasses and without a headband to hold it in place, the glasses might slide off the user’s eyes. In future, the VR glasses will be the next big thing to look out for because of its attractive portability compared to VR headsets, which can drastically change the way we work. For the TactSuit, the comfortability level seems to be alright as I have watched some videos and people seemed to not have an issue in wearing it. Lastly, for affordability, the Oculus Quest 2 is retailing at an attractive price of $299 USD while the TactSuit X40 is retailing at $499 USD. As the Panasonic VR glasses is still in development and not released for the consumer market yet, the price is still unknown.
Preferred MR Choice: Microsoft HoloLens 2 (2019)
So far, the latest hardware devices for MR are devices that have been released in 2019 (https://www.aniwaa.com/buyers-guide/vr-ar/best-mixed-reality-headsets/). Not much updates have been provided since then for new products. The Microsoft HoloLens 2 is by no doubt, one of the best MR devices right now for the enterprise market.
The field of MR comes with a different set of challenges such as how do you get a wide field of vision even if the user is turning his head away? Some holograms disappear as the user turns around. This greatly disrupts the immersive MR experience for the user. However, the holograms produced by the HoloLens 2 do not clip as much and remains as natural looking as possible. Another challenge is mapping the real life environment into a digital space as accurately as possible. The spatial mapping extensity is improved with the HoloLens 2, as the AI is now able to understand the semantic meaning of space such as what is a couch, what is a human, what is the difference between a window and a wall. This is made possible with an Azure connect sensor in the front of the HoloLens that can scan a room at a much higher level of fidelity and in real-time. In terms of mobility, the HoloLens 2 is a self-contained computer with Wifi connectivity. The ergonomic design of the HoloLens 2 is also amazing as you can see that the engineers designed it for the user to wear it longer than the first version and it is also shaped like a tennis cap. I cannot help but imagine myself wearing that headset because it looks comfortable. The battery life of the HoloLens 2 is about 2-3 hours of active use. Although the battery life is relatively short, we can expect to see future developments of the HoloLens series to improve their battery life.