Virtual reality (VR) invites you to explore alternative worlds as if you’re actually there. Simply take your smartphone and a headset and discover virtual spaces, games, and much more. Even though the technology has been around for years, the current generation of products and devices gets closer than ever to the VR’s original promise: getting elsewhere and connecting to whatever matters most to you.
With the technology advancing every year, the hardware is getting cheaper and the software base is growing steadily. In other words, virtual reality becomes affordable and thanks to massive price drops and discounts on hardware and software bundles, now is the perfect time to get your own VR headset and discover what all the hype is about.
When taking a look at the vast variety of devices, you should know there are two main categories: tethered and mobile headsets. The former is connected to either a computer or a gaming console and delivers the most powerful VR experience. External tracking devices, cameras, and advanced controllers allow for high-end experiences and get the most out of what’s currently possible in VR. However, these headsets are pricey, and with all the cables and additional trackers, movement can be inconvenient and some free space is needed. On the other hand, there are mobile headsets, which are basically empty shells with two optical lenses where the smartphone can be plugged in. Motion tracking is either done by the smartphone’s sensors or built-in headset sensors; thus, there are no cables hindering free movement. The great thing is, one can start for as cheap as five bucks with the simplest headset from Google (Cardboard). The flipside, however, is the limited computing power, resulting in a reduced experience in terms of visual quality and VR possibilities. Ultimately, you get what you pay for. Anyway, we sat down and discussed which 2017 device gets the most bang for the buck – this article is intended to make the market a bit more transparent.
Don’t be limited. In 2018, all-new stand-alone devices are coming, and upgrades to the current generation will be released. Check out our article for what comes next.
The HTC Vive, produced by HTC and developed together with video game industry giant Valve, was released on April 5th, 2016. It comes packed with a pair of motion-tracking controllers and two room-scale sensors. The wireless Base Stations allow creating a 3 x 4 meter dedicated play area where one can physically walk around. Assuming there is enough free space, security features will make sure that the furniture does not get hit. The headset features two AMOLED 3.6” diagonal screens each with 1080×1200 pixel resolution, a 90 Hz refresh rate, and a 110-degree field of view.
While the price tag dropped during the Black Friday sales, it is still at 699€ in Europe (US $600) and requires at least some decent PC hardware to perform smoothly. HTC demands a minimum of an Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 CPU paired with either an AMD R9 290 or a Nvidia gtx 970 graphics card. These specifications make additional hardware purchases necessary for those who do not own a powerful gaming PC. Fortunately, the PC can be tested for compatibility before the purchase via a SteamVR Performance Test application or HTCs ViveCheck tool.
Thanks to some great third-party accessories, like the TPCAST wireless adapter, the Vive can now be used without annoying cables. The VR Lens Lab enables the user to install prescription lenses in order to operate the Vive without glasses. Moreover, Leap Motion, a device that can be attached to the Vive’s front, has the ability to accurately track your hands with VR applications. In addition, HTC released the Deluxe Audio Strap and the Tracker, allowing for more wearing comfort and tracking in the room of any device attached to the Tracker (e.g., tennis bat, toy gun). This feature further enhances the entire Vive experience.
With an ever growing software base on Valve’s distribution platform STEAM and HTC’s own Viveport games subscription service (7,99€/month), there is already plenty to explore in VR. Thanks to LibreVR/Revive project, Vive users can also play some of the Oculus Rift exclusive titles. Since the release in 2016, the Vive has matured with all its available add-ons, and it’s for sure one of the best VR experiences consumers can currently get. However, the downside is still the high price, the additional requirement of a powerful PC, and if users aren’t willing to pay extra for the wireless solution, they have to accept less comfortable movement because of the headset’s wiring.
To sum up, the HTC Vive offers the most you can get out of VR at the moment but has a high price tag and needs some of the available add-ons to enjoy the full experience. Buy it if you’re a VR enthusiast for whom price is no object.
The Oculus Rift is widely considered to be the origin of the new VR hype and began as a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012. Two years later, Facebook acquired the company and finally released the consumer version in March 2016. The Rift includes two Oculus Touch controllers and two room-scale sensors for a recommended 3×3 meters physical space. Oculus suggests improving the room tracking quality by purchasing a third sensor that can be easily integrated into the current set-up. The installed displays are comparable to the HTC Vive, using the same 1080×1200 resolution per eye (2160×1200 combined), with a 90-Hz refresh rate. The 110° field of view is similar to the Vive’s.
The integrated Rift headphones set the headset apart from the Vive, for which the audio strap (~100€) has to be purchased separately. The Oculus Rift has benefited from recent sales and is now available for 419€ (US $379). While it is noticeably cheaper than the Vive, the hardware requirements for the PC that powers the headset are basically the same: Oculus recommends 8GB RAM, a GTX 960/R9 290 GPU, and an Intel i3 6100/AMD FX 4350 CPU as a minimum configuration. Similarly to ViveCheck, there is an Oculus tool for checking the existing computer hardware.
Both accessories, the leap motion hand tracker, and the TPCast wireless adapter, are available for the Rift, too. Furthermore, there is plenty of general VR equipment that can, assuming one is willing to pay for it, enhance the VR experience, for example, the Kor-FX that offers a gaming vest with a haptic feedback system, adding an additional layer of immersion; the 3dRudder Foot Controller that makes movement in VR feel more natural or VirZoom’s Bike Controller that turns your VR set-up into a workout experience.
The main source for VR games and apps is called Oculus Home, and it includes a few games that previously could be played exclusively on the Rift. Lately, native stream integration and updates of the central hub made the navigation and handling much more convenient. As with the Vive, the Oculus Rift matured over time and despite minor differences in the perceived controller and tracking quality, both systems offer a pretty similar experience.
Considering the lower price tag of the Oculus Rift compared to the Vive, it is a very compelling compromise between money spent and high-end VR experience. The saved money could be spent on the wireless adapter or potent PC hardware. Buy it if you want the best price for VR state-of-the-art.
The PlayStation VR (short: PSVR), formerly known under the codename Project Morpheus, was released in October 2016 by Sony Interactive Entertainment. As the name suggests, the headset is designed to work with Sony’s PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro video game consoles. It uses a 5,7″ OLED display with a resolution of 960 × 1080 pixels per eye, featuring a 100° field of view and 90-120 Hz refresh rate. In order to work properly, the PSVR requires a PlayStation 4 console and the PlayStation camera for positional tracking.
The PSVR includes a microphone for social experiences and offers 3D sound via a headphone jack, but the headphones are not included. In October 2017, Sony released a slightly upgraded version of the headset with installed headphones, a thinner connection cable to the console, and an upgraded HDR-capable processing unit. Unfortunately, this version is currently exclusive to the Japanese market. Over here, the headset can be purchased bundled with the camera (but without the PlayStation Move controllers) and certain games for less than 400€ (USD $349). Considering the PlayStation 4’s price is below 300€, the Sony VR experience is the most cost-effective tethered solution. Therefore, it is no wonder that PSVR outsold both the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift.
Even though the PlayStation 4 lacks computing power, compared to modern gaming PCs, the PSVR is able to deliver reliable tracking and a responsive and smooth gaming experience. Sony claims to offer over 100 VR-compatible games and applications, including music and movie streaming services. The only small downside is that most bundles exclude the PlayStation Move controllers (100€) and the Aim controller (90€) for shooting games. Adding those useful accessories so that players can enjoy the whole PSVR experience puts the PSVR closer to competitor Oculus Rift in terms of price.
In conclusion, the PSVR offers a high-quality experience at a considerably lower price tag compared to the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Yet, if starting from scratch, buying the PlayStation 4, a PSVR bundle, and additional controllers aren’t exactly cheap.
The initial consumer version of the Gear VR was released in November 2015, for the Galaxy S6 generation of Samsung’s top smartphones. Since then, alongside every new generation of top smartphones (Galaxy and Note series), a new version of the VR goggles has been released. The newest versions (SM-R324, SM-R325) include the Gear VR Controller, a Bluetooth motion tracking device that adds a new layer to both menu navigation and game controls. The controller is downwards compatible and works with older headset versions, too. The Gear VR bundle is available for around 100€, and sometimes, it is included at no additional cost in pre-orders of new Samsung phones or through related promotional events. Nevertheless, when adding the retail price of the smartphone, the Gear VR price tag comes close to the HTC Vive.
Samsung partnered with Oculus to offer a rich software ecosystem for the Gear VR. In addition to Samsung’s own VR browser and gallery app, the Oculus Home platform can be used to access applications, games, and 360° video content. It is worth mentioning that some Oculus Rift games are also available for the Gear VR, making the VR experience on the Gear VR outstandingly unique. For the price, it is the closest you can get to a high-end VR experience. However, the computing power of even the newest smartphones is limited, especially compared to tethered headsets, and players’ visual expectations shouldn’t be set too high.
Sadly, the Gear VR is only compatible with Samsung’s top smartphones. However, more than five million headsets have been sold, and the well-thought-out Oculus Home integration guarantees a quality experience that cannot be matched in this pricing segment.
The Google Daydream View was released in November 2016 and was recently (October 2017) succeeded by a slightly improved but more expensive version. It comes with a motion tracking Bluetooth controller and works similarly to the Google Cardboard or Gear VR. After the setup process, which involves installing the Daydream app from the store and following the instructions, the smartphone can be inserted into the headset. Unlike the Gear VR, the Daydream View supports multiple smartphones with the headset, including select models from ZTE, Huawei, Samsung, Motorola, Asus, LG and, of course, Google’s own Pixel/Pixel 2 series.
The menu and store connection features are comparable to Oculus Home but feel less extensive in terms of the available apps and games. However, there is a lot of content to be explored and, thanks to the fabric design, the headset’s look is less tech-nerdy and more comfortable than the Cardboard and the Gear VR. For the owner of a supported smartphone from the list, the Daydream View is a valid alternative to Samsung’s Gear VR.
The Zeiss VR ONE Plus, the successor to the VR ONE, was released in June 2016 by German optics and camera lens manufacturer Zeiss. It features a tray for ideal positioning of the smartphone and a translucent plastic front panel, allowing users to utilize the smartphone camera for AR purposes. Luckily, the headset has now a universal tray that holds any smartphone with a display size between 4,7 and 5,5 inches; the older model needed a specific tray depending on the type and size of the smartphone. The VR ONE Plus includes high-quality but non-adjustable lenses and offers comfortable handling. Unlike the Daydream View or Gear VR, there is no controller or touch panel for navigation included. The price tag dropped and is now about 50€.
Zeiss provides a few apps, especially for their VR headset on both iOS and Android. Unfortunately, these are tech demos at best, since they add little value and feel unpolished. However, all the standard VR apps available in their respective stores can be used and allow, due to the quality lenses, a good VR experience. In conclusion, the VR ONE Plus is manufactured very well but lacks dedicated high-quality content and a controller device. It might be the choice for smartphones that are not supported by Daydream View or Gear VR.
The Google Cardboard headset, which is literally made of cardboard, was released in June 2014. It is the perfect entry into VR since it’s super cheap and compatible with almost any device. There are dozens of different versions, e.g. do-it-yourself manuals, and free promotional gifts, with and without a head strap but always featuring a pair of simple plastic lenses. There is no controller, no buttons and often, not even a head strap. Consequently, the wear comfort is low, especially over time. However, the headset is sufficient for testing simple VR apps (e.g. watching YouTube in VR) or games and getting an idea of the technology. To sum up, it is the best headset for curious people or for use during promotional events to take the first step into the VR sphere.
by Raoul Schäkermann
With VR becoming more and more popular it’s increasingly important for all kinds of camera manufacturers to provide sophisticated optical devices. By Mid 2017 there are already 36 spherical camera systems to buy – ranging from low-end variants such as the Nico360 for $169 to ultra high-end solutions such as the Lytro immerge light field camera solution for $250.000. Due to the high interest from our customer base, we curated the following list of spherical camera systems to give a broad overview of what’s out there to buy to capture VR video content!
by Jean Schubert
Published on: Jan 20, 2017
Delight VR Video just got more immersive with the addition of our Spatial Audio feature! You and your customers are now able to locate every sound within your spatial audio enabled productions.
Ambisonics is a different way of encoding sound in an orientation independent manner. This is achieved by transforming sound into a different basis function and storing the parameters of said basis functions in one channel resp. The higher-order the function is the more precision can be represented in the signal but the more channels will be used. First order ambisonics are currently a good fit since they produce 4 channels of parameters for the basis and thus fit inside a single 5.1 stream. Second order ambisonics would require 8 channels and thus could fit in 7.1. As soon as the standards improve on storing ambisonics data, Delight VR will strive to support even higher order streams.
Published on: Jan 10, 2017
With the newest release of Delight VR one of the most requested features is now available: Adaptive Streaming. With adaptive streaming your users will always enjoy a fast startup time and high-quality video playback according to their available bandwidth. Similarly you can save CDN bandwidth and thus cost by only transferring those video segments that are actually played back on the user’s side.
Delight VR supports both most used adaptive streaming protocols, MPEG-DASH and HLS for maximum compatibility and integrability into your existing workflow. As of now you can use MPEG-DASH and HLS sources for 2D, 3D, 360° Video and 180° Video monoscopic and stereoscopic formats using our <dl8-video> element. Additionally you can display MPEG-DASH and HLS streams within our virtual cinema environment.
Adaptive Streaming is at the core of any fast and reliable video delivery solution in the Web: Users want to experience fast startup times of videos and want to always experience the best quality that can be delivered given their bandwidth requirements. This is where Adaptive Streaming shines. In contrast to progressive video the seeking times also rapidly decrease as the video is segmented into smaller chunks that can be efficiently selected for decoding and result in less wasted decoding overhead when seeking.
From a content delivery standpoint, both DASH and HLS provide the most future proof technologies in terms of possible quality output from one source and minimizing overall outgoing bandwidth and thus costs on your CDN. It is also the stepping stone in any content-delivery architecture towards live-streaming and new advanced features we’ll be showcasing soon, e.g. foveated streaming for high-quality next-level VR video content delivery.
Published on: Oct 6, 2016
Delight VR has been in Beta for around 5 months. During this time we had the opportunity to tackle many real-world challenges brought to us by our beta testing clients and of course the chance to learn a lot about todays Virtual Reality market.
Supporting a multitude of platforms and HMDs, solving numerous customer requests and learning from all your valuable feedback allowed us to shape the v1.0 release version of Delight VR immensely.
That’s why we want to say: Thank you for all your support and patience.
"Seeing our Delight VR customer and user base grow this fast tells me, that we're doing the right thing. I love what people build with our technology."
Dr. Andreas Wilhelm, Co-Founder & CEO of Delight VR
"We believe in the freedom of content creators and want to enable everyone to be a part of the VR movement. That's why we decided to let everybody use Delight VR for free!"
Frederik Maucksch, Co-Founder & CTO of Delight VR
Virtual Reality is a new and emerging technology as well as market. For it to grow and reach it’s full potential creators and content publishers need a stable base to build upon. Therefore we’ve decided to make Delight VR free to use and accessible for everyone: personal, small business and enterprise. By signing up to our services you’ll get access to all basic features of the Delight VR Solutions.
If you need help with the integration of Delight VR we are also offering additional Services like our Professional Support Plans or custom project realizations.
Already more than 8 million videos are watched every month using Delight VR.
But this is only the beginning. Within the next weeks we’re going to extend our product by a lot of amazing features such as spatial audio, the content hub, VR analytics, the Delight VR Mobile SDK, content hosting, encoding, a live streaming solution and more.
"I'm really excited about all the great features we're currently working on. Some will really blow your mind."
Matthias Wolff, Co-Founder & Lead Developer of Delight VR
Published on: Jul 15, 2016
Checkout all changes below:
The Delight VR family of elements just grew larger with the introduction of the Virtual Cinema element. The Virtual Cinema element let’s you create amazing showroom experiences to display 2D and 3D stereoscopic video within a customizable room in VR. Start building a virtual showroom for your products or a virtual cinema experience for showing your 2D and 3D movie content right now!
Delight VR now reports errors regarding declaration of your Delight VR Suite tags early and inline such that you and your customers will not be subject to any surprises when clicking on Delight VR powered content. This feature will be in effect for all elements in the Delight VR Suite starting today.
Published on: Jun 30, 2016
With the latest version of Delight VR (v1.0.0-beta4) we added support for various flat video formats. Now you can add regular videos as well as 3D videos to your site and watch them in VR!
Let your customers sit back, relax, grab an ice cold drink and enjoy a virtual cinema experience.
Published on: Jun 17, 2016
Delight VR just got better with the introduction of a fully featured 3D user-interface for videos! Your customers are now in full control while being immersed in Virtual Reality videos. Staying true to our mission of providing truly HMD agnostic experiences, Delight VR’s 3D UI supports gaze based interaction as well as optionally button and controller interaction.
To further strengthen your brand identification, Delight VR’s 3D UI fully respects the common Delight VR customization options, thus providing a coherent experience on your site that extends into VR!
We’re proud to announce the launch of the Delight VR Tour element! The tour element provides you with a fully declarative way of building interactive connected tours. Be it from stereoscopic 3D renderings, stereoscopic 360 photos, mono 360 images or even Cardboard Camera images: The choice is yours! Impress your customers today with an interactive tour!
With the new release of VR Video Controls and Delight VR Tour we have taken great care to provide headset and input device agnostic interaction. Gaze based interaction is fully supported and optionally available buttons as well as controllers are taken into account. This means seamless scaling from Cardboard solutions to Gear VR to high-end HMDs like the Vive or Oculus and ultimately a better and coherent experience for your customers!
Published on: Jun 13, 2016
Check out what’s new:
Starting with Beta 2, the white-label option drastically improves how you can integrate Delight VR seamlessly into your corporate identity! In addition to custom colors it is now possible to change the logo, watermark, brand url and player name to your liking!
Multiple video sources with freely selectable quality configurations and quality names are now possible! It’s as easy as adding new video sources with the “quality” attribute to the Delight VR Video element. Make the best out of your user’s available bandwidth and raise the bar on compatibility by defining multiple qualities today!
Did you know that you can take amazing stereoscopic panoramic images using Google’s Cardboard Camera app on Android? Try it out! And better yet: Now you can directly share those images on your website by using the new Delight VR Image format “CARDBOARD_PHOTO” and the image from your phone as a source.
And it doesn’t stop there: With the upcoming release of the Delight VR Tour you can transparently use these panoramic images to define your own 360° 3D stereoscopic tours without investing in expensive hardware!
Delight VR now has better support for audio on iOS. No extra fallback solutions for iOS required: Just use the same video source for all platforms using Delight VR and let your users enjoy a truly cross-platform compatible experience without annoying pop-ups or caveats. Delight VR also informs your users about potential CORS problems with Safari and let’s you specify fallback-urls to minimize friction for your customers.
Preliminary support for external controllers such as the HTC Vive’s or Gamepads has been added and they can now be used to interact with content in Delight VR. We continue our mission towards being truly headset and input-device agnostic! Stay tuned for more exciting news on how to interact with content in Delight VR.
by Matthias Wolff
Published on: May 10, 2016
As of today you can try out DELIGHT Engine with our newest product Delight VR.
Delight VR enables you to smoothly integrate a multitude of VR content like 360 Video, Panoramic Images and 3D Models with your website using declarative HTML only.
We’re very excited about the product and invite you to check it out!