VR Hardware 101


Bottom line: devices aren’t yet at an affordable price point for mass adoption (key word: yet…keep your fingers crossed).  In order to experience higher end room-scale experiences, a consumer would also need to buy a pricey graphics card and computer capable of handling it.

What are the different hardware options and pros/cons of each?

First, some lingo: DOF stands for Degrees oFreedom.  I.e. the number of directions your head or body can move and the virtual experience will follow you.

There are 2 distinct levels in VR: 3DOF and 6DOF.  3DOF means you can rotate your head forwards/backwards (the “proper” term is pitch), tilt side to side (roll), and shake left and right (yaw).  Add on positional tracking, and you get 6DOF.  This includes moving forward/backwards (surge), left/right (sway) and up/down (heave).

It’s easier to understand if you look at a picture:

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 2.49.17 PM

Note: these devices also vary in resolution (quality of image), refresh rate (how smooth the experience will be) and field of view (how much of the world you can see at any given moment).

3DOF devices: standing still, but moving your head

  1. Google Cardboard / Daydream
  2. Samsung Gear
  3. Playstation VR
  • Pro: On the more affordable side so can reach a wider audience. Uses the phone you already own
  • Con: Limited interaction control (typically by gaze or simple remote)

6DOF devices: “Room Scale” means that you can be tracked within a 4×4 – 10×10 area

  1. Oculus Rift
  2. HTC Vive
  • Pro: You will be in a more immersive experience and will feel like you have what they call “agency” – i.e. having control and doing what you want
  • Con: On the more expensive side. Mo’ parts = mo’ problems (fixing bugs, devices not registering with sensors, etc.)

Current challenges that the industry is working on solving at the moment include:

  • Tethered vs. wireless – for higher-end experiences, headsets are wired to the computer (latency, bandwidth and processing power)
  • Outside-In vs. Inside-out tracking – the former is how it’s done today (using sensors place around the room) vs. the latter is how it will be done in the future (ability to track where you are from a mechanism/software inside the headset
  • Mobile-based headset vs. standalone – tradeoff between scale and quality
  • Controllers – tbd what the standard will be. Right now every company’s navigational hardware and how developers assign actions to those controllers is different. In order for VR to scale, there will need to be standardization, so that every time someone wants to travel, for example, they’re not re-learning the controls



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