COVID-19 had dominated the year 2020 like no other. Most of the countries were forced to go into a full lockdown to prevent the widespread of that horrible virus. A silver lining here is that online communication tools became the sole viable method to communicate and interact with each other. Thanks to that, applications such as VR Chat gained a lot of popularity. Moreover, to substitute the missing physical presence, virtual reality technologies were used to host ceremony and conferences around the world. For example, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay used a virtual reality solution to host a convocation ceremony.
Unlike the traditional media, to consume XR (extended reality) contents, hardware such as head mount displays or glasses are required. Fortunately, based on my research, there are many options available for various platforms with respective price ranges that fit everyone’s needs. To help fellow enthusiasts, who don’t yet own an XR device and want to experience this amazing technology, I have listed down a few latest VR (virtual reality) and MR (mixed reality) devices that are great in my opinion.
Latest VR devices
HP Reverb G
Off-ear speakers, audio jack, microphone
Oculus Quest 2
Integrated stereo speakers, 3.5 mm headphone jack
Oculus Rift S
In-line audio speakers 1x 3.5 mm audio jack
HTC Vive Cosmos
In-line audio speakers
If I am to buy a VR device right now, I would definitely go for an Oculus Quest 2. Despite being the latest release of the Oculus Quest product line, Oculus Quest 2 is surprisingly affordable with the starting price of only USD 299 for 64GB version, which makes it a no-brainer choice for a starter VR device. On top of that, Occulus Quest 2 is highly portable since it does not have to tether to a VR capable machine to work. It has a high resolution (1832×1920 pixels per eye) and comes with built-in audio speakers. It is also equipped with 2 non-rechargeable touch controllers that provide great comfort for gaming.
The downsides of Oculus Quest 2 is that you need a Facebook account to use it, and it only has access to a limited number of games on Quest Store right now. However, creating a Facebook account is free and by tethering with a single USB-C cable, Oculus Quest 2 can also function as PCVR which has access to a bigger game library. Although the controllers are not rechargeable, using rechargeable AAA batteries does the trick. All in all, Oculus Quest 2 is a solid choice for both starters and veterans who are looking for an upgrade at the start of 2021.
Latest MR devices
Magic Leap One
Microsoft HoloLens 2
Among the listed devices, my perferred choice is Microsoft HoloLens 2. Since it is a successor of the original HoloLens, it has access to the wider range of programs. Having wider field of view than most of the devices, it also support more intuitive gestures that fit around natural interactions used in day-to-day lives; think pinches, pulls and drags, unlike the original HoloLens. Being developed by Microsoft, the developer ecosystem is relatively stronger. Dynamics 365 integrations, just like office 360 integrations, will soon be available too.
That being said Microsoft HoloLens 2 is very pricy and slightly bulkier than my confort level. It may simply because the target auidence of the devices are industry workers and the benefits for user business seems justify the cost of it. I hope that in the near future more advanced and slimer devices for mixed reality become available.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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