Your Computer isn’t Fast Enough for Virtual Reality

The Oculus Rift headset is tested by attendees at the Eurogamer Expo at Earls Court in London.

Well 2016 is upon us.  The most anticipated technology for the year is virtual reality.  Several different headsets are coming out.  Read our review for Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard.

Before you get excited about buying a headset, just remember that a computer or smart phone needs to accompany the device.

Thankfully, most people have a smartphone.  Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard simply need your current compatible phone to work with.  The gear VR is about $100 USD and the cardboard is about $20 dollars.  Sony’s Playstation VR is set to be about the price of a current generation console, on top of that, you’ll need to have a playstation 4, which goes for about $350, so for the full sony VR package, you’re looking at around 700-800 USD just to get started.Oculus2

The tricky part comes when you start looking at Oculus Rift or Steam’s new contender.  The Oculus Rift is expected to go on pre-order this Wednesday.  So far, a set price has not been set.

According to Bloomberg, only thirteen million personal computers in the world this year will have the graphics power needed to run virtual reality.  That’s only one percent of the 1.43 billion personal computers that are currently in use in 2016.   Looks like I’ll have to throw out that old iMac in the living room and get something with a bit more power.

How much will you have to spend to get a computer capable of running Oculus rifts new games with a descent frame rate?  The problem is, it needs more than 2x the power because it needs to render 2 different 3D environments for your two eyes.

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Facebook now recommends that Oculus Rift owners have a computer with an Nvidia GeForce 970 or AMD Radeon 290 graphics card. Each costs of these cards costs at least $300, which is basically the same price as an Xbox One or PlayStation 4. While the graphics card is the big-ticket item, the Oculus Rift will also require more powerful processors, including an Intel i5-class processor, more than 8 gigabytes of memory, and two USB 3.0 ports.

Normal PC games run at around 30 frames per second.  Researchers have found that at least 90 frames per minute are needed to avoid dizziness and nausea.  Basically that means you will need at least a $1,500 laptop to run virtual reality.

Console:                                                   Cost:

Playstation VR with Playstation           About $650

Oculus Rift with laptop                          About $1800

Samsung Gear VR with phone              About $750

After reviewing the costs and the complications, it seems like Sony has the best option.  I’m not sure how smooth, or how complex the games could possibly be on a Samsung phone.  I think the playstation 4 will be able to deliver enough graphics and an unbeatable price point.

Which system are you looking to buy?

Google’s Cheap Virtual Reality

Cheap Virtual Reality By Google

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About a week ago, I did a review of Samsung’s Gear VR, a great way to get into virtual reality with your Samsung phone for a hundred bucks.

What if I told you that you could immerse yourself in virtual reality for an even cheaper price?  For just under 25 dollars you can get Google Cardboard.  Basically, it’s cardboard that wraps around your device, and allows most smartphones to view virtual reality content.

Once you have Google Cardboard, you can explore a ton of apps that unfold all around you.  The site boasts that you can “visit new places, play immersive games, fly through space and more”.

So What Kind of Apps are Available?

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You can immerse yourself in a Paul McCartney concert, layout on a tropical beach and jump into the inner workings of the body.  At this point, there are several free Apps available.

 

New App for Creating Virtual reality Scenes

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On Thursday, Google released a new virtual-reality camera app.  The app lets you take a three dimensional panoramic photo that you can view in Google Cardboard.

Simply place your phone into the cardboard headset, and put it up to your eyes.  You can then look at the entire scene as if you are there.  Look around and behind you.  Unfortunately, you cannot look up or down at the moment.  Google is still working out the kinks.

Mike Podwal, a product manager for Google stated, “It’s a really powerful way to understand a moment in time”.

Imagine capturing an important moment in your life in virtual reality.  Maybe a wedding kiss, a birthday party, a graduation or retirement.  You could look all around the room, and see friends and loved ones in a three dimensional view.  The next step of course would be to capture three dimensional immersive video.  This would most likely require something a little more complicated than your smartphone’s camera.  I think this is a great start to capturing in depth moments.

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Virtual reality seems to be the darling for silicon Valley in 2015.  Facebook with Occulus Rift, Samsung with the Gear VR and  Sony with Project Morpheus.  This new app for capturing a 3D moment is just the beginning.

Imagine taking a trip to the louvre in Paris while in your living room.  Perhaps we will get to the point where you could visit your doctor in three dimensions.

Cardboard is a great cheap option with its units costing just under $25. The headset isn’t manufactured by google itself, but is available through their website.

Have you had the chance to try out the new Google Cardboard?  What did you think of it?  Leave your comments below.

Samsung Gear VR is Awesome

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I can vividly remember buying Nintendo’s Virtual Boy back in the 90’s.  I ran home, un-boxed it with some friends, and started to play.  I was immediately disappointed.  The tennis game looked horrible.  There was some depth, but with the extreme red and white color contrast I got a headache right away.  The next day I took it back to the store.  If my Super Nintendo games looked so good, why couldn’t virtual reality look good?
It’s been 2o years, and dare I say, quality virtual reality may be just around the corner.
If you already have a compatible Samsung phone, for just 99 bucks you can immerse yourself in virtual reality.
Currently, there are sparse games and 360-degree movies that you can toy with. However, being that it is one of the first systems on the market, it may be your best option to use virtual reality before the holidays.

The Gadget:

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If you’ve been following the hardware saga, the Gear VR used to be a very bulky headset.  Thankfully, with each iteration, it has come down dramatically in size.   Simply use the Velcro straps to place it on your head, and it’s ready to go.

There is soft padding around the nose and eyes to make a comfortable fit.  If you wear glasses, the head-set actually does as pretty good job at accommodating your eye ware.  Contact lenses may be preferred.  Also, if you are over 40 years old, you might run into troubles with your prescription due to presbyopia if you are farsighted.  Progressive lenses may distort your viewing, so I recommend getting single vision glasses or contact lenses before you start your experience.  A great positive aspect is that there is a focus wheel at the top that you can use to adjust the clarity to match your vision.

Of course, when it comes to using the Gear VR, you need the cell phone.  It is a lot like using google’s Cardboard, but the Gear VR has more bells and whistles; a gyroscope and proximity sensor.

Getting Started:

The following phones currently work with Gear VR: Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ and the Note 5.  I’m hoping that the Gear VR will have longevity.  Hopefully  the next phones that they release will still fit.

To get started, just place the phone onto the from of the Gear VR, then plug in the USB.

Sound:

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It makes the most sense to use headphones with the Gear VR to get the full experience.  Unfortunately, these aren’t included.

Controller:

Some games require a controller.  Unfortunately, no controller is included with the Gear VR.   A separate controller can be added and used with Bluetooth technology.

Using the Gear VR:

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Oculus Home launches and you’re ready to go.  You can get apps/games and immersive movies.  There are already over 100 apps available.  If you are a developer, this could be a good time to jump into the wildwest of VR coding.  Great time to make money in a new frontier.

Things to watch out for:

Nausea: A lot of people are reporting nausea.  This is to be expected with VR.

Battery life:  The battery goes pretty quick while using VR, and once it’s dead, you are also out a phone.  That makes it a bit inconvenient.

Overheating: While playing, the phone does get pretty hot.

Positive Aspects:

It’s available now.  Several other solutions are soon to come out including the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus.

The price tag: At just under a hundred dollars, this is a great way to jump into VR without breaking the bank if you already have a compatible phone.

If you’ve had experience with VR, please let me know in the comments.