True Player Gear Totem preview

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When you woke up this morning the only two big players on the VR scene were Sony and Oculus, well now, after what we’re told is as much as nine years of development, True Player Gear has unveiled its own virtual reality headset, the Totem. It packs comparable features to both of the big names and a few extras, but whether it’ll be able to compete in a market that Facebook just dove head first into is anyone’s guess.

Features

Hardware specifications for the Totem are unlikely to be finalised until later this year when the Kickstarter begins, but for now, we’ve been told it has a 1080p OLED screen (like the Rift devkit 2) and built in headphones with very high quality audio. It’s compatible with the Xbox 360, One, PS3, PS4 and PC, which is something neither of the other VR competitors can do. It also stands out by having a pair of cameras built into the front, which allows for augmented reality as well as virtual and can give you a quick check of the real world (perhaps the keyboard) if you need to mid-game, without removing the whole set up.

Another impressive feature is the Totem’s internal processing. It can perform pre-lens distortion, as well as sensor fusion within the headset itself, meaning you should be able to use the Totem on lower powered systems – like the last gen consoles. This also means it can tailor the experience to the user much more accurately, offering up different views to different eyes or adjusting the entire view for those with long or short sightedness, meaning you can use the Totem without your glasses on.

There’s also built in controls in the headset itself, allowing for some potentially interesting gameplay elements as well as simple adjustment of the hardware’s brightness and contrast on the fly. The lenses are also said to have been optimised to make reading text that bit easier too.

One other feature that’s worth noting, is the expansion port. This could allow for daisy-chaining or a variety of different added functions and it’s all possible because of that little port. Granted someone will need to make it, but the potential is at least there.

Cost

This is something else that’s totally up in the air. True Player Gear hasn’t given us even an estimated price, though it’s said to be trying to make it was close to that of Oculus’ Rift as possible – which tells us that it’s more expensive at the moment. That’s not too surprising. If the Totem has onboard processing that can actually crunch numbers rather than just translate what the PC is outputting into a Rift ready image, then it’s going to cost more. The fact that headphones are included too will be pushing up the price.

Drawbacks

Apart from the potential cost increase and the fact that this hardware has apparently been in the works for almost a decade, the Totem does have some drawbacks. For example, it doesn’t have any positional tracking at the moment. The developers are said to be working on a system that uses the front facing cameras for positional tracking, but they’ve not released much information on it yet. So while you can tilt in the Totem, you can’t move forward, back or side to side.

It also has a smaller viewing angle than the Rift, at only 90 degrees. This isn’t massive, but it’s noticeable and will be a big selling point for the Rift if True Gamer Gear doesn’t expand the field of view.

Bottom Line

Considering you won’t be able to order one of these until July or so and even then won’t receive it until later this year, I think True Gamer Gear is going to have to upgrade its Totem before putting it on sale if it really wants to compete. It’s going up against Sony and Oculus, the latter now backed with Facebook money. That’s really steep competition. We wish it luck, but it’s going to have to pull off something really special to shine as competition heats up.

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