Virtual reality is a pretty hot topic at the moment, with plenty of companies riding Oculus VR’s coattails into the future of digital immersion. However one company thinks there’s still room at the VR Inn, and is noow running a Kickstarter campaign for its own product, the AirVR, a supremely cheap headmount to turn any phone or tablet into a virtual reality headset.
The big feature of the AirVR, is that the product being sold isn’t a virtual reality headset at all, it’s a headband with some lenses attached. The idea behind it, much like Google’s cardboard VR goggles, is that you slot your iPhone or iPad (or android equivalent) into the space provided and you’re off and running in VR.
This means it’s incredibly portable and doesn’t require an external power source like the Oculus Rift or Sony’s Project Morpheus. On top of that, it has all of the built in features of a smartphone, like a camera (for potential AR as well as VR), it’s WiFi enabled, can feature up to a 2K resolution screen thanks to retina displays and can have touch screen controls.
In-fact, the AirVR is specifically designed to leave a gap for touch screen controls at the bottom.
In terms of head tracking, it uses the phone/tablet’s built in gyroscope and accelerometer to offer a similar experience to the Oculus Rift. With the iPhone 6+’s proximity sensor, it can even have positional tracking too.
At the time of writing, the AirVR is currently going through its Kickstarter campaign and there’s no guarantee it will hit its milestone. However, as it stands, pre-order kits – set to ship in December – are $50 CAD, or around £27.
One of the big problems with Poject Morpheus, is that the PS4 isn’t able to render high definition content at a decent frame rate when there’s only one version of it; it’s going too struggle doing it twice. Similarly here, even though smartphones and tablets are becoming more powerful, they’re still very underpowered compared to a gaming PC and even some people struggle with a few specific Oculus demos to make it work in a way that won’t make people feel sick.
The touch screen controls seem silly too. Without any tactile feedback, people would need to remove the device to use them, which makes them feel pretty redundant.
As much as I think virtual reality is going to change the world in the long run, I don’t see AirVR doing it. However I reserve judgement until the product is out in the wild. Let’s see what’s happening come December before we rule this out entirely.