How To Start A Vr Business – From Oculus Rift to Google Daydream, VR is getting a lot of hype. What system should you go for, what should you buy and what should you play?
Until recently, virtual reality was a fantasy for storytellers and experts. Beginning in 1935, American science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum depicted reality in the short story Pygmalion’s Spectacles.
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“But listen – the film gives presence and sound. Now think I add taste, smell, even touch, if you like to be in the story. You are in the story, you talk to the shadow, the shadow box, and not on the screen, the story is about you and there you are. Is it a dream come true?”
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Experts are still working on smell and taste, but Albert Ludwig’s “magic glasses” illustrate the importance of 360 degree headsets and games, video and cyberspace.
There have been decades of experimentation with virtual reality since Ludwig’s glasses were published, from the first head-mounted VR systems in the 1960s to the first commercial products in the 1980s – not to mention the Hollywood film in 1992. The Lawnmower Man , which looks like it’s going to be a virtual reality, or VR, theme for a while.
The current era of virtual reality began in 2010, when a young American, Palmer Lucky, created the first VR headset model that would be transformed into the Oculus Rift. Two years later, launching a $250,000 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign – and $2.4m in pledges later, the tech industry’s interest in VR is back. Two years later, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was so pleased with the split that he bought the company for $2 billion.
Palmer Lucky Oculus VR helped start the current wave of VR excitement. Photo: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Many competitors have emerged, from HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR to headsets like Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. Meanwhile, hundreds of developers are creating VR games and apps, filmmakers are exploring the possibilities for documentaries and movies, and Facebook and YouTube are jumping in with 360-degree video.
But if you’re new to virtual reality, where should you start? Here’s everything you need to know about hardware, apps, and games without becoming an expert with magic specs.
The most important virtual reality device is the headset, a pair of thick glass-like devices over your eyes. While more expensive and high-end headphones need to be connected to a computer to run apps and games, some of the cheaper ones use a mobile phone attached to the front of the headset.
Each headset should be used with good headphones, and there are other accessories, from hand controls to treadmills, all designed to enhance your simulation experience in other worlds. While a standard gaming joypad also works, hand controllers translate real-world gestures into the game or app you’re using.
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Just like smartphone app stores, VR devices have their own app stores where you can browse and download games and apps. Some of these stores are accessed using a device, while others – the VR section of the Steam Digital Game Store, for example – can be browsed on a computer.
Released in early 2016, four years after the first financial campaign, the first commercial version of the Oculus Rift began to be sold through the Oculus VR website and gradually to retail stores around the world.
Now, you need a powerful PC to use Oculus Rift. Minimum specifications for Oculus Ready PCs are available on the official website, with Dell, HP, Alienware and Asus all offering VR-ready machines. Oculus VR has also introduced Rift bundles with PCs, such as the $2,050 Alienware bundle.
Thanks to some technology called “Asynchronous Spacewarp,” Oculus announced that the Rift will now work with PCs for $500.
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Oculus is expanding its hardware offerings, and in December Oculus will introduce the Oculus Touch controller that translates your hand movements into a virtual environment. At $199, it’s not cheap.
Price: $599 (£549) includes headset with headphones and mic, motion sensor, remote and Xbox One controller.
Best for: Early adopters and anyone who wants to see Facebook first turn virtual reality into a social experience.
Verdict: Oculus Rift has ushered in a new generation of VR and has a new community of developers creating games and apps – although some have pushed the politics behind their creation. Facebook’s financial support should ensure that the split will last.
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HTC Vive is a collaboration between Taiwanese technology company HTC and gaming company Valve. Valve has added a VR platform to its existing Steam digital game store, while Samsung has launched the Viveport platform for non-gaming applications.
The Vive is a direct competitor to the Oculus Rift, although both devices offer a wide variety of games and apps. Like the Rift, it requires a PC to run the software, and HTC is helping buyers get the right hardware by maintaining a list of Vive Ready computers that includes partners such as Alienware, HP and MSI.
The Vive has some unique features, including a front-facing camera that, in some apps, can bring the real world into your virtual environment. Unlike the Rift, you also get a two-handed motion controller in the box, which partially explains the higher price.
The Vive comes with a base station that tracks your movements, so you can move around the VR environment within strict limits. A long setup process that’s better compared to home audio setup than putting a stereo in a closet.
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Price: $799 (£759) includes headphones, two wireless controllers, two base stations and a docking station to connect to a computer.
Best for: Anyone who wants a top-of-the-line home VR system (currently) complete with a mix of gaming and non-gaming.
Verdict: HTC Vive is the most expensive on the market and takes the most effort to set up. If you do that, being able to move in virtual space and turn your head is amazing. Valve’s partnership, along with the Steam store, also has a large developer community.
The third big weapon in the VR competition is Sony’s PlayStation VR headset, which was launched in October 2016 as an accessory for the PlayStation 4 game console. The new PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro are compatible with the headset, but the Pro can run VR games at a higher resolution and frame rate. .
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PlayStation VR uses the PS4’s standard console controller, the DualShock 4, but you’ll still need the $60 PlayStation Camera accessory.
Sony wants to make PlayStation VR more than a solitary experience: a feature called VR Social Screen shows what is being watched in the headset on the TV screen, so that friends can participate or watch.
Definitely part of the PlayStation world, gaming is more focused on PlayStation VR than Oculus Rift and Vive. Sony has confirmed more than 100 games, 50 of which will arrive by the end of 2016.
You’ll need: PlayStation Camera, which costs $45 (£39). Although you can use the standard PS4 joypad for games, some will support the PlayStation Move motion controller, which costs $99 (£70) for a two-pack.
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Best for: Gamers – or PlayStation 4 gamers, as there is no integration with Xbox One or Nintendo.
Verdict: As the first console-connected VR headset out of the box, the PlayStation VR is a very affordable model, even if you have to buy a PS4. There are some famous brands, while the power of Sony means that there will be a strong pipeline of titles in the months and years, although there is also a small selection for applications that are not VR games.
With the Gear VR, we enter the category of VR headsets that use smartphones as screens and apps. Samsung’s headset uses technology from Oculus VR, although it’s not as powerful as the Rift. It only works with Samsung S6 and S7 series smartphones and phablet Galaxy Note7 (if you still have a Note7, put the device down and walk slowly – the phone in the world is back after the light problem with the broken battery).
The Gear VR can be purchased as a standalone device, but some retailers will include it when you buy a new Samsung smartphone, so be sure to look for a deal.
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Games and apps are available on Samsung’s Oculus Home software, along with a huge list of apps, games and content. For Samsung owners, the
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