Virtual reality, a term that refers to a computer generated environment that simulates the viewers physical presence inside the real, or imaginary worlds, has long been a staple of science fiction writers. The very first example of virtual reality, in fact, can be traced to the 1860s when 3D panoramic murals tried to create a simulated effect. Fortunately technology is much more advanced these days, with virtual reality systems that can be eerily similar to real life. While there are not many options readily available, there are a few great ones.
The Oculus Rift, an upcoming consumer-priced virtual reality head-mounted display, is being developed by Oculus VR with endorsements from many well-known companies and individuals, like Sony president Shuhei Yoshida. This high field of view, low latency deviceÂ is still being developed, so is currently unavailable to the general public, but developer kits are already being shipped to those who contributed to the projects initial Kickstarter fundraising campaign. While the original Rift prototype used a 5.6 inch screen, after the unexpectedly successful fundraiser they company decided that the screen wouldn’t work, as there would not be sufficient quantities to keep up with demand. Instead, the design was changed to use a 7 inch screen.
Vuzix iWear VR920
Touted as the first video eyewear specifically designed to allow the wearer to step inside virtual worlds, the VR920 has become one of the most popular virtual reality headsets currently available. The iWear VR920 offers plug and play compatibility with most PCs and laptops, but requires the computer to have a video card that supports dual monitors. The device sports a pair of twin high-resolution LCD displays that provides 24-bit true color and a USB connection for power, tracking and audio. The VR920 claims compatibility with a large number of existing software applications and games, including the popular Fallout 3 and World of Warcraft.
Unlike many of the other Virtual Reality headset options, the Durovis Dive is being developed as a VR system for select Android smartphones. Among the current compatible devices is the Nexus 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S3. As a proof of concept, the Durovis Dive prototype was printed using a 3D printer. While the design is still being finalized, development on a consumer version is planned with an official launch date currently set for August 2013.
The Philips Scuba is one of those virtual headsets that just won’t quite. Originally developed in 1998 by Dr. Jonathan D. Waldern in conjunction with Philips Electronics, the Scuba VR headsetÂ is a 1.2 pound helmet, as opposed to the typical pair of slim glasses. Considered unique because of the ability to provide head tracking, this headset communicates through a computer’s mouse port. The Scuba works with most preexisting PC games. Although very little information is currently available, Philips is reportedly already developing the next generation Scuba VR headset.
The eMagin Z800 is considered to be one of the best virtual reality headsets currently available. This headset, which sports a pair of magnified OLED displays, does double duty as not only a virtual reality system, but can also function as a portable 2D computer monitor. The Z800 relies heavily on nVidia stereo 3D drivers and can be used on both PC and Macintosh. Unlike many other VR headsets, the eMagin Z800 is equipped with an accelerometer, motion sensor and an integrated microphone.