The state of VR: Where Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Gear VR, and others stand right now

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Razer OSVR

I’d be remiss not to mention Razer’s OSVR for two reasons. 1) Because it’s Razer, a large and well-established company in gaming. 2) Because of what OSVR stands for: Open-Source Virtual Reality.

As Razer puts it:

“[OSVR] is an ecosystem designed from the ground up to set an open standard for Virtual Reality input devices, games and output with the sole goal of providing the best possible game experience in the Virtual Reality space. Supported by Industry Leaders and focused on gaming, the OSVR framework rallies gamers worldwide together to push the boundaries of VR-Gaming.”

razer OSVR HMD Gordon Mah Ung

Razer’s new OSVR promises to make virtual reality open source and democratic.

It’s an admirable goal, given how much the scene has fragmented in the past year. I keep saying “When this started, Oculus was the only one around,” but that’s a bit of an understatement. Last year, i.e. December of 2014, Oculus was still the only serious virtual reality contender—Gear VR was a bit of a we’ll-see-what-happens experiment, and everything else (HTC Vive, OSVR, StarVR) was still unannounced.

That sort of proliferation could actually do more harm than good in a technology as untested and unproven as VR. After all, it’s what leads to us writing lengthy exposes like this one about the state of the technology. And if VR does take off, expect the problem to get even worse as every company that’s ever soldered two wires together decides to make its own headset.

Enter Razer, uncharacteristically willing to cooperate with other companies and hopefully mitigate fragmentation. And also sell some VR headsets, while it’s at it.

The Razer headset is a bit lower-end than the consumer Rift or Vive, more on a par with the Rift developer kits. Razer makes a $200 headset that apes the DK1, with a 1920x1080 screen at 60Hz and a 100-degree field of view. For an extra $100 (or $300 total) you get a headset and included position-tracking camera, a la the DK2.

Razer OSVR HMD Back Gordon Mah Ung

Razer’s OSVR HMD features a 1080p screen and with the plans and specs being published, you can build your own.

There are a few extra perks. Because OSVR is more a network of companies and not just Razer, the plan over time is to integrate other technology into the headset—for instance, Leap Motion’s hand-tracking. Merging virtual reality with Kinect-style tracking could be a powerful mix in the right hands, indeed.

”So, can I get one?” And this is probably the most appealing part of OSVR: You can buy it right now. You can head to Razer’s site and get one and start playing with VR.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you should. While both the DK1 and DK2 were impressive at the time, neither met the standards Oculus considers a baseline for comfortable virtual reality—meaning you’re more likely to get nauseous using OSVR.

Also, HTC and Oculus seem determined to forge ahead on VR themselves, rather than working with Razer to determine standards. You might buy OSVR and find few developers using it.

In fact, probably the best bit about OSVR is the whole “open-source” thing. You can actually build your own OSVR headset if you’d like, provided you have access to a bunch of specialized fabrication machinery. But unless you’re a hardcore VR aficionado, you’re probably better off with the more consumer-friendly Vive, Rift, or Gear VR.

Bottom line

oculus look up

It’s exciting times for virtual reality. Or scary times. Within the next year, we’ll most likely have an answer to the question “Will virtual reality catch on?” And while I hope the answer is yes, the opposite scenario is just as likely.

But it won’t be for lack of options. Between the Vive, Rift, Gear VR, OSVR, and the various augmented reality headsets like Microsoft’s Hololens, there’s a staggering breadth of virtual reality headsets coming to market. All we need is for one to succeed.

Stay tuned—we’ll be rolling out formal reviews and more hands-on impressions as the hardware becomes available, and updating this article as necessary. Feel like we missed something important? Or made a mistake? Be sure to get in touch with me through Twitter and let me know!

Correction: This article originally stated that Gear VR used your phone’s internal gyroscope. In fact, it has its own higher-end gyroscope built in. The article has been updated to reflect this.

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