Virtual reality for beginners: problems of choice

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The variety of devices for introducing virtual reality is now such that it is not so easy for a person who is far from this world to understand it and understand where to start. This small guide aims to answer the most basic questions that may arise from anyone who intends to buy their first VR device.

All the big players from different camps in the industry have entered the VR race in one way or another. However, each of them uses their own specific approach. There are a number of factors that can influence which device is best for you, including price, features, available space in your home or office, devices you already own.

There will be no tedious lists of available virtual reality devices in this article. There will not be a battle of characteristics that leading manufacturers lure us with. We will just try to understand the most basic issues related to choosing the first VR device.

Mobile device or PC?

Virtual reality for beginners: problems of choice

The first and most important decision you will have to make when considering VR is which type of device is right for you. Virtual reality helmets for PC users are powerful, mostly well-made, and often in the top category, promising you an unparalleled VR experience. Their functionality leverages the power of your PC, so if you have the budget, you can provide yourself with entertainment comparable to the Star Trek Holodeck.

The downside of PC-powered devices is their obvious dependence on your computer and its specifications: the computer must be powerful enough for your top-end VR device to work properly – or even work at all. However, recently these restrictions have become less noticeable. Yes, VR headsets that work with a PC must be connected to a computer, but the connection does not have to be wired. TP-Cast has a wireless adapter for HTC Vive and HTC showed its own wireless adapter at CES 2018. In addition, you can use top VR devices on some laptops, so your entire VR set will fit in your backpack. Yes, these laptops are not cheap. But the point is that you get much more mobility than VR devices could provide you before.

So, if you are starting from scratch, you will need to buy a VR device, the price of which varies in a fairly wide range, plus a complete game set, which can be both relatively affordable and absurdly expensive depending on what you want to get.

Virtual reality for beginners: problems of choice

The main advantage of mobile VR devices is obviously portability. You can get yourself a Gear VR or Daydream and take it with you wherever you go. For example, bring to visit a friend, grab it to the office, and so on. In order for such a device to work, it only needs to be paired with a phone, and it must also have relatively broad compatibility with various devices. For example, in order for a smartphone to support Google's Daydream, it must be fairly new and not on the budget. However, in this segment you have a wide choice. Let's say Samsung's Gear VR requires a Samsung smartphone, but you don't have to own the company's latest flagship.

Devices that are compatible with smartphones have disadvantages. In particular, they are simply not comparable to PC VR devices in their capabilities. And even if they are well-built and of high quality, they are far from HTC Vive and Oculus Rift in solidity. Also, if your smartphone doesn't support VR, you'll have to buy another one. However, if you belong to the category of people who often change devices, this will not be a big problem for you. When buying a smartphone, check its compatibility with VR devices. One way or another, in the case of a mobile virtual reality experience, the bulk of the cost is precisely the smartphone.

How much space is required?

Virtual reality for beginners: problems of choice

Before choosing a VR device, you need to assess the space in which it is intended to be used. Because any device can simply go collecting dust on the shelf if there is nowhere to realize its potential.

Immersion in virtual reality can be done in two different ways. Some devices require sensors to be placed in the room, while other devices have all the necessary sensors built in. The two main options for installing sensors are the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The Oculus Rift already ships with two sensors, but the complete room kit comes with an extra sensor.

Devices in which all sensors are built-in generally work with Windows Mixed Reality. They scan your premises and can include your entire environment in virtual reality and augmented reality.

If you mainly intend to immerse yourself in virtual reality from the comfort of your desk, you do not need a complete set to equip a room. For example, the Oculus Rift is great for 'desktop' or 'seated' VR and is more affordable. In turn, HTC Vive can be used in the same way, but if you have your eyes on it, with its price tag it simply does not make sense to use the device at full strength. Windows Mixed Reality units can also be used both seated and full room.

What else is needed and how much are you planning to spend?

Virtual reality for beginners: problems of choice

VR isn't the cheapest pleasure. Computers and smartphones that support virtual reality are also not among the most affordable. VR devices cost money, and the software they run on can increase the price. Therefore, the most important question is how much you are willing to spend.

If you are an avid PC gamer and just want to add virtual reality to your regular experience, the prices will hardly surprise you. Likewise, if you own a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 4 Pro and want to get into VR, you can look towards PlayStation VR. But if you are an ordinary user who wants to try something new at no special cost, it is better to dive into virtual reality using a top-end smartphone.

The cost of entering the VR world is now as low as ever. However, pricing for a Daydream or Gear VR isn't such a big deal compared to spending money on a smartphone. So, as they say, everything in this world is relative.

Virtual reality for beginners: problems of choice

Summing up

Virtual reality for beginners: problems of choice

VR is a developing industry, and many people want to become a part of this story. Deciding which virtual reality device is right for you is not so easy. And in any case, this choice will be very individual, even if all the above criteria are met. Therefore, it remains to ask you, dear readers. Have you tried virtual reality, and if so, how did you choose the device for yourself? What considerations were you guided by? Or are you just planning to do this? Share in the comments!

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