VR headsets are widely used for gaming, simulations, and other applications. If you’re reading this, you may already have plans to play games or check out some incredible movies and video content. But why would you want to buy a new VR headset?
Big firms and academic institutions are slowly adopting VR to train employees and teach students. But the world of VR can get confusing as soon as you start browsing the options on the market. From PC VR to stand-alone headsets and the vast array of content, we’ve got it all covered.
Some Background on VR Headsets
VR headsets are not a new technology. For decades manufacturers toyed around with creating a VR headset. Even Nintendo tried its hand at VR experiences back in the 1990s with its Virtual Boy console. Unfortunately, VR had little commercial success as the technology required to run it was too limited.
Fast forward to 2016, when the Oculus Rift took the world by storm. VR changed forever and was suddenly within reach for everyday gamers. Since then, companies have jumped on the VR bandwagon attempting to make themselves a part of the next big trend. We’ve now reached a point where technology caught up to VR to create a stunning and highly realistic experience.
Why Buy A VR Headset?
A VR headset has different uses. Check out the typical applications:
One reason to buy a VR headset is that it lets you access games unavailable on any other device. While big-name publishers are still hesitant to produce VR games, you can still play many titles. Beat Saber is an excellent example of a simple rhythm game where you swing controllers to the beat of popular songs.
You can also play complex games based on beloved franchises. The cult classic Psychonauts has a VR exclusive called The Rhombus of Ruin. Additionally, you can find VR adaptations of games such as Borderlands VR and L.A. Noire. Not to mention numerous Star Wars titles, such as Tales from Galaxy’s Edge.
Of course, you can play everything from sports to puzzle games in the immersive world of VR. The downside is that not all VR titles are cross-compatible. Some games are available exclusively on the Meta Quest store, while others only have PSVR or PC versions. If you have your heart set on a specific game, check to ensure it works with your VR headset.
Besides playing games, VR headsets are great for watching movies. Picture sitting in a theater with a massive screen in front of you, no kids kicking your chair, and unlimited popcorn. This is possible with just a VR headset. Devices like the Quest 2 have unique theater apps which let you watch movies or TV shows on a simulated large screen.
Streaming services like Netflix also let you watch movies with the headset. You can even watch 3D movies designed to run on older 3D TVs. Thanks to different displays for each eye, VR headsets are arguably the best way to enjoy 3D movies. If you don’t have any titles in your collection, you can always check out the 3D section on YouTube for some awesome videos.
While not all VR headsets are great for social interactions, some, like the Oculus Quest 2, are explicitly designed for it. Socializing on a VR headset works is surprisingly good, and you can even join groups of people also using VR. So, how does socializing on VR work?
Devices like the Quest 2 let you sync up friends lists to help find people you know. But there are also opportunities to interact and meet new people in VR. Interactions happen in several different apps besides traditional video games.
VR has also found its way into classrooms across the country. Because the devices can simulate a three-dimensional world, they are perfect for learning. For example, a teacher in a high school biology can walk students through a practical like dissecting a frog. No one has to touch awful chemicals or cut the pieces out; everything happens inside a headset.
VR isn’t going to replace real-world experience, but it is helpful in virtualizing concepts in a classroom setting. Some educational programs are proprietary and designed for specific institutions, but apps are available for public use.
HTC Vive XR Elite
- Adjustable IPD and diopter dials
- High-resolution XR passthrough
- 3840 x 1920 combined resolution
- 90Hz refresh rate
- Up to 110° field of view
The HTC Vive XR Elite is a relatively new VR headset overlooked mainly due to its popular competitors. The XR elite continues HTC’s long-running line of VR headsets, significantly improving power and useability. Like the Quest 2, it is an all-in-one device, so you don’t need a computer.
However, you still have the option to run PC VR games on the XR Elite if you want to. It is very slender and compact. Even better, you can remove the battery pack when using it with a PC. It also comes with this with a surprisingly good display of 1,920 X 1,920 pixels per eye. Unfortunately, the XR Elite has a staggering MSRP of over $1,000.
Sony’s PlayStation consoles are always on the cutting edge of gaming. But the company took one of its biggest risks with the PSVR headset. While it was limited in graphics and available games, it gave many gamers their first experience in VR at an affordable price. But a few months ago, Sony released their latest iteration, the PSVR 2.
The new PSVR 2 provides one of the best displays of all consumer VR headsets. Though pretty expensive and requires a PlayStation 5, its feature set is worth the cost. It comes with redesigned controllers, which was a major complaint of the original PSVR. Best of all, you can access exclusive games like Horizon Call of the Wild on this headset.
Meta Quest 2 is an affordable, intuitive, all-in-one headset and one of the best value in VR. Meta rolled back the controversial policy requiring a Facebook account to use the Quest 2.
Anyone can pick up Quest 2 and quickly download a game or start watching a movie. Moreover, it offers a great display, unlike older VR headsets. Additionally, it does not require a PC or game console to run. Simply plug it into a computer to play PC VR games.
How to Pick the Best VR Headset: Step by Step
Choosing the right VR headset can be overwhelming as numerous options have different requirements. Not to mention, they come with a range of features. If you’re in the market right now for a VR headset, follow these five simple steps:
- Set a budget
- Choose between all-in-one, PC, or PlayStation
- Try out a couple of options
- Check the available content
- Buy your VR headset
Set a realistic budget
Cheaper VR headsets start below $500, but high-end models can cost upwards of $1,000. With a rough budget, you can start looking at the options available. VR headsets notably have additional requirements. Some need a PC to run, while others, like the PSVR 2, require a PlayStation 5. However, headsets like the Quest 2 do not need different devices.
Weight your options
Once you decide on the type of VR headset to buy, it is time to take a closer look. Try out any of the headsets that you like. Either find a store with VR headsets on display or find a friend who has one. Failing to try out a headset means you could end up with an uncomfortable device.
Next, double-check whether your favorite VR headset can do everything you expect. For example, look at the available games to see what may interest you. VR games are often exclusive to devices or may only work with select headsets. Once you ascertain the headset works fine, you can finish by shopping around for the best deal.
Alternatives to VR Headsets
Augmented reality headsets are the primary alternative to traditional virtual reality. A fine line separates the two, with augmented reality integrating the world around you. It uses cameras to film or a clear lens, allowing you to see what is happening while layering graphics. In comparison, virtual reality sees the wearer looking at screens displaying a virtual world.
Google Glass was a popular early form of augmented reality. While several headsets today take advantage of augmented reality, most are designed for commercial use. Companies like Microsoft, Lenovo, and HTC have augmented reality headsets. However, there’s little content available for average users as most apps are designed for specific and proprietary purposes.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Max kegfire/Shutterstock.com.