What Is a Virtual Reality Headset, and Why Would I Want One?
If you’ve ever wanted to really get your head in the game, you’ll have the chance soon. Virtual reality headsets are coming.
On Tuesday evening Sony unveiled a new, futuristic virtual reality headset called Project Morpheus. It’s not the first of its kind: It looks and works like the Oculus Rift, a much-hyped virtual-reality headset from the startup Oculus VR.
And then on Wednesday, Oculus VR made its own news: It revealed its newest version of the Oculus Rift. It’s still only meant for developers, and not yet the general buying public. The upgraded Rift featured a crisper screen and faster performance than previous models. It raised hopes that a final model would be available soon.
So it was a big week for virtual reality headsets. But what exactly is a virtual reality headset? Let’s catch you up.
What is a virtual reality game headset?
A virtual reality (or VR) headset is a device that you wear over your eyes like a pair of goggles. It blocks out all external light and shows you an image on high-definition screens in front of your eyes. The goal of the VR headset is to immerse you in a game. In VR games, your point of view is your character’s point of view; most VR headsets track your head movement, so that wherever you look, your character looks, too. If done well, you’ll feel like you are inside the game.
These headsets are not consoles on their own. They must be connected by a cable to a gaming system—a computer for the Oculus Rift, or a PlayStation 4 for Sony’s Morpheus.
To play the game, you hold a traditional gaming controller in your hands to manipulate your character’s movements, moving a joystick to walk forward, and pressing a button to shoot a gun, for example. But since all you can see is what your character sees, and since moving your head controls where the character is looking, the game can become very lifelike and completely envelop your sight and hearing.
I’ve used one: It can be incredibly disorienting, and it removes the barrier of staring at a monitor or a TV screen. You really feel like you are your gaming character. (And you have no idea what you look like when you play.)
Who makes virtual-reality headsets?
Oculus VR is the most well-known maker. It started as a Kickstarter project in 2012 and now stands as an emblem of what gaming could be like in the future. A final version, complete with a game marketplace, could be out by the end of the year. Oculus hasn’t announced a price, though developer’s kits cost $350.