Virtual reality on the PC is an expensive proposition today, requiring both a high-end headset and a powerful computer, but a new app promises to make the headset side of the equation much cheaper.
With RiftCat’s VRidge app, users can stream VR games from a PC to a smartphone over Wi-Fi. Instead of using the $600 Oculus Rift or $800 HTC Vive, you slot the phone into a cheaper VR headset like Google Cardboard (about $20) or Samsung’s $99 Gear VR. The app is available now as a beta for users of RiftCat’s PC software.
Of course, there are catches. Even under the best conditions, streaming games over a local network creates latency, which in VR is a major contributor to motion sickness. While RiftCat claims to only introduce a frame or two of lag according to The Verge, that still amounts to at least 30 milliseconds, and probably more, of network-induced lag, not counting any delay in rendering the image on the screen. (Oculus VR has spoken of 20ms as the sweet spot for VR latency.)
Also, VRidge only supports rotational tracking at the moment. The company claims to have a “complete runtime replacement” for VR titles that could theoretically enable positional tracking in the future, but this creates its own dilemma: Some PC VR titles won’t work with RiftCat’s software. (Another solution, Trinus VR, is also available without those supposed “low-level hooks,” The Verge notes.)
Why this matters: Although streaming to a smartphone won’t give you a true VR-on-PC experience, it could be a cheap way to see what kind of software experiences would be available if you splurged for a high-end headset. And given the shipping delays for both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, a cardboard headset might be your only option for now anyway.