As press at CES, you don’t so much cover the entire show floor like at other events, as much as you lay claim to a specific chunk of turf and roam that section for the entire duration of the show. If you’re lucky, by the end of the week you’ll have seen 1/10th of what CES has to offer. This year, seeing as almost no gaming stuff was going down at CES, I claimed the virtual reality section as my CES home away from home.
While roaming my surroundings, I ran into a ton of different mobile (used with a smartphone) and tethered (attached to a computer) virtual reality headsets. I didn’t have enough time in the day to get a full on demo of each one, but I could at least attach every chunk of hardware to my face and give it a quick fit n’ feel test. I’ve compiled a list of the ones that stood out the most.
Oculus Rift ($600)
If I am going to cover a race, I may as well start with the dude everyone else is chasing. The commercial version of Oculus Rift uses a three strap system (one over the crown of the head, and two to the sides, joining In the back), with headphones attached to the side straps. The viewer looks longer than other units, but that doesn’t effect the feel of the goggles when they are on. The face gasket is made of a spongy material, which is important to note if you are prone to sweating (which I am) and are planning to share the headset with other people (which I am). The headset was not friendly to my larger-than-normal glasses, something that I find is a major problem with most headsets, but Nate Mitchell (VP of product at Oculus), assured me that there will be attachments in the future to accommodate big glasses.
Razer OSVR ($300)
Razer’s OSVR (Open Source Virtual Reality) headset also uses a three-strap system, with one strap over the crown and two on the sides. Unlike the Oculus Rift, it has separate headphones. The strap material on Razer’s OSVR is more of an elastic-like material, allowing them to stretch and fit over my head much easier. I prefer this style of material for headset straps over almost any other I saw at CES because I am allowed a bit of fudge factor when adjusting the size of the straps, where other, less flexible straps require getting dialed-in pretty close. The face gasket is spongy, which again creates a gross situation if you’re unlucky enough to use the headset after me. The gasket is also not friendly with my large glasses.
ANTVR Cyclop ($240)
The people at the ANTVR booth didn’t seem all that into allowing people to try out their tethered headset or their 3×3 foot virtual reality area detection (which uses infrared detection to locate shiny squares placed on the floor). Throughout the show, I saw the same guy wandering around a roped off virtual reality area with the Cyclop headset on while the rest of us gawked from the outside. It was like watching a human exhibit in an alien zoo where the staff was studying our obsession with virtual reality.
Before the show floor closed, I was able to talk them into at least slipping the headset on for a brief moment. The ANTVR Cyclop featured the good old three-pronged Velcro straps, which weren’t very stretchy. The viewing port, as per usual, was not good for my large glasses.
Homido Headset ($70)
Size wise, Homido had one of the most restrictive mobile virtual reality headsets on the floor. The viewing area is really tight and is meant to be used without glasses (large or otherwise). In place of glasses, Homido uses a special set of viewing cones designed to work with those that suffer with poor eye-sight.
The headset itself uses a folding clip to hold the mobile device, which the phone slides into from the top. The strap is stretchy elastic, which minimizes adjustment when putting the headset on.
Homido Mini ($15)
Homido also had a really cool, quick virtual reality product called the Homido Mini. The Homido Mini is essentially a caseless pair of viewing optics that clips onto a smartphone. Then I simply hold the phone up to my eyes, and I can get a quick and dirty virtual reality experience. It lacks the ability to shut the outside world out like walled-in headsets and cardboard-based viewers, but I like the idea of something that can display virtual reality quickly for when I want to check something out for just a few seconds.