Best Oculus Rift Alternatives You Need To Try
The verdict is in – virtual reality is no longer the gimmick it once was and has officially hit the mainstream. Gone are the days when VR meant clunky graphics and even clumsier headsets. 2016 has seen an explosion in the number of choices available to consumers, whether they’re your average Joe who just wants to see what the fuss is all about, to serious gamers who want to live full-time in a fantasy world.
People don’t have to look any further than the arrival of the Oculus Rift to determine when exactly this monumental shift occurred. The headset seemed like the answer to all our VR dreams, packaged in a sleek design and offers a wide range of immersive games that would blow even the most ardent of skeptics away.
Of course, being the first doesn’t always translate to being the best. Dozens of VR headsets have been launched in the wake of the Oculus Rift, some more compelling than others. One thing’s for sure, virtual reality is here to stay and won’t be disappearing off the market like so many other tech fads such as 3D phones over the years.
The central dilemma facing most individuals interested in VR right now is the plethora of choices on display in 2016. While Oculus seems like the default choice for them to dip their toes into VR waters, there are several other alternatives that they can choose to pursue instead, especially if the Rift’s $599 price tag is a significant bone of contention.
Here’s our list of the best Oculus Rift alternatives.
The Gear VR is the perfect lifting off point for this list since the device was developed in collaboration between Samsung and Oculus itself. It’s widely considered to be one of the best substitutes for the real deal at a fraction of the cost thanks to its $99 price tag.
The Gear VR is on the less complicated side of things when it comes to setting up. All you need to do is slide in your smartphone, and the headset’s in-built lenses magnify its screen. There’s a touchpad located on the side of the device to act as its de-facto controller, a welcome feature given how most mid-range headsets don’t even offer one.
Content matters when it comes to virtual reality. There’s no point buying a headset only to find out there’s a limited number of things you can do with it. Samsung probably knows this, which is why it’s been steadily improving its VR library to offer users a wide range of games and 360-degree videos courtesy of its Milk VR platform.
The main drawback of the Gear VR is its compatibility. Samsung only allows certain Galaxy models from its lineup to work with the headset, severely decreasing the gadget’s potential user base. Still, it’s a pretty solid option for VR newbies out there who just happen to have a Samsung phone ready to plug and play.
As far as mid-range VR headsets go, the Gear VR is probably the best known. However, there are some exciting options in this category. The Freefly VR headset is one of them.
At $69.70, this addition to our alternative roster has the advantage of being one of the most affordable choices in this list. It’s additionally not tethered to any particular handset series; so users can slot in most iPhones or Android devices with ease as long as it measures anywhere between 4.7 and 6.1 inches in size.
Freefly VR offers a distinctive, funky look complete with wings. It comes jam-packed with impressive specs like a wide 42mm lens, a faux-leather finish, and a 120-degree field of view which the company claims is the highest available today. The firm has even thrown in a free controller called the Glide into the mix.
Sadly, the Glide controller is only compatible with Android phones right now. It used to work with iOS as well, but Freefly says Apple’s continually changing firmware has made that difficult. iPhone owners will just have to spend extra cash on a Bluetooth accessory if they require one. Moreover, it’s not possible to wear a headset with glasses.
So people with any kind of eye problem are out of luck with the device since it features non-adjustable fixed lenses. Freefly themselves recommend potential buyers wear contact lenses if they are near-sighted.
Despite its advancements, virtual reality is still a pretty fragmented experience right now. Different manufacturers offer separate platforms, each rising and falling by the strength of what they have to offer. This is where the Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) ecosystem steps in, seeking to provide a unified experience for VR developers and enthusiasts.
In simple terms, OSVR is trying to set up an open standard for VR devices and games, just like Android did for phones. Razer’s OSVR Hacker Dev Kit is part of the expansion of this platform. It’s more closely related to the PC-connected Oculus than the phone-dependent Gear VR, though the company is planning to release a version for handsets as well in the future.
The Razer OSVR has been constructed keeping games and gamers in mind. As can be guessed by its name, it’s meant for developers who want to make apps for VR devices without being restricted by technical details. However, serious consumers can check it out as well, as long as they’re fine with a still nascent platform.
Getting into specifics, the latest $399 OSVR Hacker Dev Kit 2 boasts of 2160 x 1200 dual OLED display technology which runs visuals at 90fps at a pixel density of 441ppi. People will have to buy their controllers and plug-in their speakers. The lenses are adjustable, and an infrared system tracks head movements.
Thanks to its open-source nature, the Razer OSVR Hacker Dev Kit supports both OSVR and SteamVR. This makes it a very attractive proposition for anyone who doesn’t want to get tied down to only one platform.
Speaking of SteamVR, this brings us to what is widely considered the ultimate Oculus Rift rival – the HTC Vive. The device has inspired countless debates over which headset does VR best with no definitive answer to the question just yet.
This addition to our list of best Oculus Rift alternatives is by far the most expensive product in this list at an eye-watering $799. However, it’s important to consider the fact that you’re not just getting a premium headset in the bargain, but also two exemplary controllers, Lighthouse base stations, and a few free games.
Part of what makes the HTC Vive so far ahead of its competitors is its use of motion tracking. The aforementioned Lighthouse base stations can be placed in the corners of a room and act as cameras, continually recording your position in a space and rendering that in a virtual environment.
The effect of this cannot be downplayed. Actually being able to walk around allows you to fully immerse yourself in an alternate universe, something which the Rift cannot replicate since it’s confined to one spot for now. HTC has even introduced a neat Vive Phone Services feature which lets you connect your handset to directly get notifications without having to remove the headset.
Furthering this never-quit agenda is the inclusion of a front-facing camera which allows you to actually see what’s in front of you in the real world without taking the headset off. Moreover, the snapper could also be used for augmented reality experiences to layer the real world with the virtual.
Sony’s hotly-anticipated PlayStation VR started out as Project Morpheus all the way back in 2014, but its origins go back even further than that. With all that time and effort, fans of the Japanese brand have pretty high expectations for the headset which will finally go up for sale on 13 October 2016 at $399.
While the PlayStation VR is frequently a part of discussions comparing the gadget against the Rift and Vive, Sony itself has admitted that its headset is less powerful than the former in terms of high-end quality. This bears out on a spec-by-spec comparison of the two, with the PSVR no match for the Oculus’ advanced capabilities.
Sony isn’t concerned about this though, pointing out the fact that the Rift requires a costly and fast PC. This won’t be an issue with the PlayStation VR since it only needs the PS4 to get going. Furthermore, compatibility makes it an ideal option for gamers who already have one. It also boasts of an impressive 120Hz refresh rate which makes room for games running at an insane 120fps.
As Sony puts it, the alliance between the PSVR and PS4 is the company’s biggest advantage since the headset is meant for everyday use and targets the affordable mass market rather than the exclusive sector to which Vive or Rift players belong. Moreover, the brand’s long-standing reputation in the gaming world gives it a leg-up when it comes to high-profile titles to play.
The Fove VR began life as a Kickstarter project which managed to exceed its $250000 goal by generating $480650 in funds, with people paying anywhere between $349 and $399 for the headset. It even attracted attention from the likes of Samsung Ventures and Microsoft Ventures London Accelerator.
The key feature which helped draw all this focus is the Fove VR’s ability to track your eye movements using infrared sensors. This ground-breaking technology helps the headset double down on realism within an artificial virtual world and opens up a host of possibilities that wouldn’t be doable in other VR devices.
For instance, you’d be able to make actual eye contact with game characters and talk to them face-to-face instead of having them look vaguely in your direction. You can even use your eyes as a gun to shoot targets. Who knows, perhaps you could one day shoot laser beams out of your eyeballs just like X-Men’s Cyclops.
One of the biggest gripes critics have with VR headsets is the motion sickness that arises out of spending too much time in one. Fove VR reduces the effects of simulation sickness to a certain extent by cutting down on abnormal head movements. Instead of everything being in sharp focus, the device adjusts the focus depending on what you’re looking at.
Fove has had some difficulties in actually shipping out its headset due to complications arising out of the unavailability of parts and dropping support for HTC’s room-tracking Lighthouse technology. It’s currently developing its own positional tracking system and promises to release the VR device by fall 2016.
With Samsung and HTC already big players in the VR game, Acer has decided to jump in the fray by joining hands with game maker Starbreeze Studios. The latter’s StarVR headset has been around in its current iteration since 2015 and will now have the support of the Taiwanese company for further expansion.
StarVR is set apart from its rivals by virtue of having a genuinely massive field-of-view measuring 210-degree. Considering most VR headsets like the Oculus Rift only support up to a 100-degree FOV, this could help it truly get an edge over other offerings. Another notable aspect that keeps it streets ahead of other options is its two Quad HD 5.5-inch screens which offer a premium 5120 x 1440p resolution in total.
This is nearly twice what the Oculus Rift offers, though it has to be kept in mind that the increase in pixels is necessary for its ultra-wide FOV. Widening the scope of what a person can see should translate to a more authentic VR experience, one where their vision isn’t limited to a small area. Plus, the headset is a breath of fresh air among a riot of circular designs, going with an angular approach instead.
Starbreeze has already demonstrated its potential by showing off titles like Overkill’s The Walking Dead at various venues. It’s also collaborating with IMAX to develop entertainment centers where individuals can come and experience VR games and films first-hand. The firm is planning to focus on the location-based market for now with no word on whether it’ll expand into the consumer sector eventually.
We’re going to finish up our list of alternatives by highlighting a device that sounds too good to be true. The Sulon Q comes across as a superhero among headsets, combining AR and VR in one neat tether-free package.
Unlike the Oculus Rift, whose goal is to immerse you completely in VR, or the Microsoft HoloLens, which just overlays digital effects over the real world, the Sulon Q can apparently do both in a seamless transition. The company even put up an impressive demo of the product’s abilities in a video.
The Magic Beans demo starts off as ordinary, with a message telling you to look at the floor and then the ceiling of a real-world room. Some beans appear and dissolve into the ground. This is when things get interesting, as the floor suddenly cracks wide open and a growing beanstalk crashes a realistic-looking hole through the ceiling so you can see the sky above.
It gets only better from there, with a giant picking you up to a completely virtual world. There’s even a point where you can look down and see the cracked place you just got lifted off from. Sulon claims all this is possible thanks to its advanced Spatial Processing Unit, a mixed-reality computer that performs real-time environment mapping and tracking.
The Sulon Q’s other intriguing highlight is its ‘Wear and Play’ design. You won’t need to set up an expensive PC rig or plug in your smartphone to get it going since the headset has its mini-computer running inside it. The company has managed to stuff a remarkable array of high-end specs within a relatively compact design.
This list includes Windows 10, an AMD FX-8800P processor, Radeon R7 GPU, AMD LiquidVR, a 256GB SSD, 8GB of RAM, a 2560 x 1440p OLED display, and two USB 3.0 ports. It even comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse. With features like that, wearing the Sulon Q will be more or less like carrying a portable computer on your face.
The Sulon Q doesn’t have a price tag yet and was supposed to arrive in late spring 2016. There’s no word on when to expect it as of now, though we hope to see it in action before the year is out.
Virtual reality has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. It now has the potential to move beyond games to sectors like education and even the medical industry. The introduction of devices like the simple Google Cardboard has additionally made sure it’s not just the stronghold of dedicated enthusiasts.
Google is all set to become an even bigger player in the VR world thanks to its Daydream mobile VR platform and headset. There are also rumors swirling around that it’s developing a device that combines both the Microsoft HoloLens’ AR and the Oculus Rift’s VR abilities.
While the Oculus Rift will probably still be the first name that comes to mind when someone mentions virtual reality in a conversation, our best Oculus Rift alternatives list proves that there are a ton of other options for people out there. The VR space is heating up, and there’s no better time to jump in.