One of the biggest obstacles to virtual reality in the next few years of its life, is going to be cost. Until people try it, they can’t truly appreciate the immersion of the technology and with the £200+ price tag, it’s going to be difficult to get them to splash out on yet another display. However, Altergaze is hoping to fix that, with its more economical, 3D printed, VR viewer that uses your smartphone to handle all the complicated stuff.
Altergaze is split into two separate pieces of kit, there’s the hardware side of it and the software side. For the former, it’s a 3D printed frame that holds your smartphone at a few inches distances from your face, with custom-made lenses in-front of it.
The software as it stands, is just a side-by-side 3D image viewer, that works with games as well as movies and images, but in the future it will also offer tweaks to the image to make it work better with the lenses, since at the moment it’s far from a perfect 3D view.
The Altergaze comes with options for a handheld version and a headband that allows for more autonomous viewing. It also has several different versions with different front-styling, though that doesn’t seem to have much effect on the actual build quality or experience – it’s just for bragging rights.
In terms of the 3D view presented when compared to industry standards like the Oculus Rift, it offers a comparable 110 degrees field of view (though that is reduced to 90 degrees with the headband option), full head tracking in six degrees of movement, a high definition display (depending on the smartphone used) and a very low weight.
Altergaze is currently priced at £75 for a build-your-own version and £100 for a pre-built one. This makes it about half the price of the Rift, though still far from cheap, especially since you’ll still need a good phone to make it work.
The biggest drawback of the Altergaze is also its biggest selling point. The fact that you need a phone means everyone could use one of these without shelling out for another display, but then again, you’ll need a good phone to make it work. You not only want a nice OLED, HD display, but you also want one with good battery life and a good GPU to boot.
It’s also got to be said, that the build quality of a 3D printed product is unlikely to be of the quality of the Rift and at £100, it might just be easier to buy a second hand Rift Devkit when the consumer version becomes available. It won’t be a big jump in price.
While I think the Altergaze is a great idea, I’m not sure it’ll become a mainstream gaming device, when plugging your phone into something like the Rift wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility. I can see the Altergaze being great for 3D image viewing though, checking our holiday snaps and the like.