Following Facebook’s $2bn (£1.2bn) acquisition of Oculus last week, the VR (Virtual Reality) headset maker has attracted a lot of attention. But the Oculus Rift isn’t the only device of its kind hitting the market – and it’s not necessarily even the only approach to VR.
I recently had the opportunity to try the vrAse headset, an entry-level alternative to the Rift which offers a similar immersive 3D experience. The demo sat me on a virtual rollercoaster, able to look around in any direction by moving my head. The visuals are simple but the screen fills your field of vision, and as the ride reaches its peak and I look at the virtual plunge ahead of me, I actually feel a flutter in my stomach and my legs go a little weak.
This isn’t an entirely positive thing. 10 minutes later, still feeling a little dizzy, I start to wonder if this isn’t the effect of a perfectly realised rollercoaster experience but rather a mild case of simulator sickness that would be turning my stomach regardless of which demo I’d seen.
However, it does go to show how effective the vrAse is. That’s why I’m so surprised when, after the demo, the headset’s display slides out and is revealed to be a Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Its display is split into two halves, both showing an identical feed.
The headset itself simply consists of a frame, two lenses, and a removable adapter to fit the user’s smartphone of choice – vrAse recommends devices with a screen size between 5-6”, but a universal adapter can be used for any handset upwards of 3.5”.
All the computing work is done by the smartphone, meaning the vrAse itself is an entry-level device; while the developer kit for the Oculus Rift costs $350, vrAse is targeting a sub-$100 pricepoint.