In this week’s news, we bring you some interesting developments with regards to Virtual Reality’s future and a short review of the Nintendo Labo VR Kit. In our first piece of the news, we look at how Oculus and HTC, which started with similar missions, are now well on their way to different outcomes. New headset releases and policy changes have outlines how Oculus and HTC might be the VR’s Microsoft and Apple. But which one wins the race, is yet to be seen.
In the second piece, we will review the Labo VR Kit. We know that it isn’t what we initially expected, but still, it should be a good beginner gaming console. However, the fact that it costs $40, $30 more than Google Cardboard (the real beginner headset) might work against it. Now that we are done with the introductions, let’s get to work.
#2: Oculus vs HTC – The Future of VR
Oculus and HTC both started their foray into VR with premium high-end headsets. Oculus took off with Rift, while HTC released their Vive. Both headsets had their own sets of fans who celebrated their respective specialities.
However, the release of Google Daydream, Microsoft Mixed Reality headsets and other affordable headsets, struck off a series of moves which ultimately separated the paths for these two giants. Owned by Mark Zuckerberg-led Facebook, Oculus started exploring a route through the mass-market, while HTC started positioning itself for enterprise services.
With the Oculus Go, Zuckerberg started off Oculus’s journey towards the mass-consumer market. The Rift S and the Quest headsets are next in line, both of which will be around the $400 mark. Though that’s still not cheap, it’s much less than the previous $600-700 range required to purchase a Rift.
On the other hand, HTC is eyeing the enterprise customers with its Vive Pro Eye and a tetherless headset called Focus Plus. These headsets can cost as much as $1400. For obvious reasons, the consumer market is not fit for such price ranges.
Contrastingly, Oculus will now have to cut corners, if it wants to remain affordable. By reducing the visual and build quality they will be able to bring down costs. But the main play will be for scale. Once they reach scale, they can control the costs without hampering the quality. It will be much like today’s smartphone manufacturer.
A similar race took off in the 1980s when Apple decided to go the enterprise route and Microsoft took the mass-market route. However, this time the results might not be the same. Only time will tell.
#1: Nintendo Labo VR Kit Review
When the rumours of a Nintendo VR headset first started doing rounds, we expected something along the lines of a PSVR. However, the first official announcement played spoilsport and soon enough we were stuck with a basic cardboard version headset, made to play with Nintendo Switch.
The headset comes in the form of various masks. One is shaped like the head of an elephant, while another looks like a bird. Another mask is known as the blaster due to its shotgun like shape. Each of these headsets is built specifically for their respective games. For example, the blaster headset is used to play games where you can shoot at things or shoot things.
All the headsets and their accessories are made of cardboard, except specific parts like the lenses. The complete and most advanced kit is called the Toy-Con 04 VR Kit. It costs $79.99 and includes 6 different types of headsets and accessories. These are only compatible with the Nintendo Switch currently. There are a set of VR mini-games which were created to be played with the Labo VR Kit.
The problem starts with the screen resolution. The Switch comes with an LCD display instead of the typical OLED display used by premium VR headset manufacturers. OLED is preferred since its ability to show true blacks and the ability to deal with blurs. LCD displays cause issues when it comes to small blurs and reduces immersion in VR.
Secondly, there’s the cost factor. For $80, it’s not enough of a VR experience. The cardboard headset is fine if you’re charging $10-20. But if you’re dishing out $80 (which is closer to GearVR’s price range than Google Cardboard), then you’re going to expect something meatier. That issue is going to persist. No matter how many game titles Nintendo adds, the fact remains that these are sub-standard pieces of technology which have durability issues. The headset needs to be held in one hand while the Joy-Con (controllers) need to be held in another. As a result, even the gameplay experience isn’t that great. Plus, the graphics have been lowered so that it can match up with the VR headset.
One of the few saving graces of this headset is its tracking. It used 3DOF technology to track controller movements. Though that isn’t enough, the elephant headset is actually capable of adding more realism, thanks to its unique construction. Its trunk uses real-life motion to capture them and translate it into the game. This mapping of real-life space is so outstanding that it remains one of the standout features of the headset.
Depending on how you want to experience VR gaming, you can either choose the Labo or avoid it. But it surely is a unique piece of VR technology.