Virtual reality is one of the most developing technologies. Apart from that AR and MR also fall in the same awesome tech league. And just for this reason, we take a look at the present and the future of mobile VR headsets.
Mobile VR Headsets
Virtual reality has exploded in recent times, effectively breaking the chains of exclusivity that had reserved the technology to a select few for years. Today, gamers are taking over the senses of their heroes, film lovers are walking with their favorite actors, and creatives are building illustrations in the air, all while in the comfort of their homes. Experts are calling VR the next big thing, and admittedly, its origin story sounds a lot like that of mainstream innovations like the computer and the smartphone.
With the virtual reality revolution progressing at a breathtaking pace, tech giants are heavily investing in seeing that the technology achieves its preempted potential. Oculus and HTC, for instance, are hard at work, constantly issuing updates and price cuts to cultivate appeal among prospective consumers.
One area that seems to be peeking the most interest, however, is mobile VR, whose low cost and broad reach make it the platform that is most likely to launch the virtual reality technology into widespread use in the coming years. Leading the voyage are Samsung and Google, who are estimated to ship more than 6 million Gear VR and Daydream View headsets this year. Even Oculus co-founder Jack McCauley sees the more pocket-friendly mobile, and not the costly PC, as the future of VR.
Mobile VR Today
The current mobile VR design essentially features a wearable shell fitted with lenses, into which you slide your smartphone. The lenses are arranged in such a way that they separate the image on the phone’s display into two frames, which the human eyes interpret as multidimensional. The smartphone handles all the processing, which means that in addition to being able to take your gear with you anywhere you want, you won’t need to worry about tripping on cables while traversing your virtual reality space.
Mobile virtual reality is the go-to option for many enthusiasts, who are aching to have a go at the cutting-edge technology but can only dream of raising the hundreds of dollars needed to buy the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or the PlayStation VR. While you won’t get the quality that stems from rendering virtual reality content with a high-end gaming PC or a PS4 console or the elaborate sensors that come with the premium setups, the value for the money is impressive, to say the least.
The Samsung Gear VR, which is arguably the best mobile VR headset on the market, costs a reasonable $129.99, while Google’s Daydream View will only set you back $79. Even more remarkable is that those who want to satisfy the nagging urge to try new things as quickly as possible can jump on the wagon with as little as $15, thanks to Google’s Cardboard project.
The Rift, the Vive, and the PS VR may still be what comes to mind when someone mentions virtual reality, but with acceptance growing steadily, it won’t be long before mobile headsets capture the majority of the VR market.
Mobile VR Tomorrow – What to Expect
Despite the recent bold leaps, virtual reality is still in its so-called experimental stage, where innovators are playing around with the pieces to see what fits where.
While cost and complexity are the main concerns among PC and console VR developers, limited performance and power are the current talks in the mobile scene. Sure, the flagship smartphones of today pack multi-core processors and robust GPUs, but running intensive VR applications from a battery means that these components need to operate at low power to preserve battery life. Moreover, the smartphone’s small size means that extra steps need to be taken to keep the hardware from overheating while processing VR content.
Because of the physical constraints of smartphones, therefore, it’s perhaps safe to say that mobile VR isn’t going to match PC hardware for raw power anytime soon on top of the fact that most mobile users can only afford a budget smartphone which usually ships with only 2GB of RAM or less. Regardless, consumers will still demand crisp resolutions and higher frame rates, and gadget makers will need to address the limitations to satisfy the market.
Besides better visual quality and power efficiency, upcoming mobile VR devices will likely feature spatially accurate 3D audio, and low latency sensors to enhance the immersive experience. And, because virtual reality content requires ample storage space, onboard memory capacity is also bound to increase. Alternatively, compression technologies like Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression (ASTC) from AMD and ARM may be implemented in mobile GPUs to save on the graphics bandwidth and memory required by VR applications.
Lastly, although mobile VR content currently lags behind PC and console, you can expect things to change soon. All the major hardware manufacturers are now offering SDKs to developers. Google has its Android VR SDK and a dedicated kit for the popular Unity engine, while Oculus has worked with Samsung to build a Mobile SDK for the Gear VR. It’s only a matter of time before VR apps and games start flooding the stores.
Mobile VR may be far from perfect, but the benefits it holds over its desktop equivalents make it a platform worthy of intrigue and investment. The portability aspect, the low cost and the sheer number of smartphones that are in use today are all clear indications that mobile is the best path for virtual reality to take if it is to become a mainstream platform for multimedia experiences.