Major improvements have been made to VR headsets in recent years. They provide increasingly lifelike opportunities to discover unfamiliar environments, with greater freedom of movement and a more tangible sense of scale. They are also the only way to play some truly incredible games, such as Half-Life: Alyx
However, a good virtual reality experience requires more than just placing your phone in a plastic holder. Intriguing though those phone-based solutions may have been in the past, the experience from a dedicated headset is truly unparalleled. Thanks to high-tech tracking and 6DoF (six degrees of freedom), your every move is faithfully reflected in the game world, making you feel like you’re actually there. The use of fingerprint scanners is also on the rise. In addition, modern headsets are capable of producing eye-popping pixel densities and frame rates. Up to 2,448×2,448 at 180 Hz is possible with each eye. So, obviously, some can only be played on a monster of a gaming PC. However, low-cost versions can function with comparatively simple hardware. Some of them provide an engaging experience without the use of supplemental hardware.
To assist you in navigating the new digital landscape, we have compiled a list of our favorite resources. If you want a truly immersive gaming experience, you can’t go wrong with a high-quality virtual reality headset.
What Is a Virtual Reality Headset?
A virtual reality (VR) headset is a device worn on the head that combines a screen with stereo sound, sensors, and compatible controllers to create a fully immersive and interactive audiovisual environment.
If you put on a virtual reality headset, you won’t be able to see anything outside the virtual environment you’re in, but instead you’ll be immersed in whatever you’re viewing on the screen, which could be anything from a 360-degree video to a VR game to a virtual office or meeting room.
Virtual reality (VR) headsets block out all visual input from the outside world, in contrast to AR and MR headsets.
The user will also rely on a set of virtual reality controllers in addition to the headset itself. Providing an interactive experience, the gadget calls for a controller to perform actions like pointing, selecting, dragging and dropping, scrolling up and down, moving between virtual reality settings, drawing boundaries, and more.
Handheld controllers that are analogous to joysticks are typically used with commercially available virtual reality headsets. In the near future, we may see models equipped with haptic gloves that allow users to move around in a virtual environment with their fingers, gestures, touches, and other naturalized movements.
Advantages of Virtual Reality
It’s true that there are some upsides to this technology, and that its spread has had some positive effects. Here are a few of virtual reality’s many benefits:
1. More Than Real
Virtual reality, on the other hand, provides vastly superior visuals that transport the user to a different world while they watch the scenery, play a game, or do anything else. The virtual reality controller makes it feel like the player is immersed in the game, with all the sights, sounds, and other sensations, just as if they were there in real life.
2. Safe Practice / Simulation
Among the many incredible benefits of virtual reality technology, perhaps the most immediately useful would be the ability to train and practice for potentially life-threatening real-world activities like surgery, combat, flight, etc. Learning to perform surgery, pilot an airplane, and other potentially life-threatening activities is now a breeze.
It can be a lot of work to plan a vacation, and if things don’t go as planned, it can really dampen one’s spirits. Virtual reality technology has made it possible to get a clear and detailed look at any potential tourist destination before deciding whether or not to actually go there.
Everyday tasks like going to the store are made much more convenient with the help of virtual reality. Let’s say you’re in the market for home decor. A confusing situation arises because merely looking at the designs does not make it easier to decide a perfect match. Virtual reality makes it simple to visualize different floor plans and furniture arrangements before committing to one.
5. Increased Learning Possibilities
Virtual reality allows doctors to experience the effects of a drug and learn about its unique properties before prescribing it. Virtual reality can be useful in fields like writing and editing because it can make it simpler to spot mistakes when using specific software configurations.
Disadvantages of Virtual Reality
Although virtual reality (VR) has many benefits, it also has some drawbacks that should be taken into account. The potential drawbacks are detailed below.
The predetermined order of events in a virtual reality experience cannot be altered, unlike in real-world systems. In the real world, a student who has questions or comments can easily speak up and do so, but in the virtual world, this isn’t possible.
Anyone who engages with a topic for an extended period of time risks developing an obsession with it. This is especially true when mind-blowing innovations like VR are considered. Many people enjoy playing games that enable them to engage in illegal activities, but if this interest develops into an addiction, they are more likely to engage in these behaviors in real life.
Despite the fact that virtual reality (VR) technology offers a fantastic and entertaining experience, not everyone can afford to have access to it. Despite gradual price reductions over time, this innovation is still out of reach for the vast majority of people.
When people spend a lot of time in virtual reality, they develop an addiction to it and start preferring it to the real world. As a result, they rely more on their online communities, such as video games, for social interaction. As a result, they begin to withdraw from the outside world.
Virtual reality can be used for training in a variety of fields, including medicine and aviation. However, virtual training and actual practice have significant differences. When thrust into the real world, where their every move has real repercussions, they may find themselves unable to perform at their peak.
Basic Components of VR Headsets
An array of sensors
Virtual reality is not a spectator sport like 2D video. The virtual environment responds to the user’s actions in real time.
Virtual reality (VR) headsets have a number of sensors, including a 6DoF system for head tracking, to help with this.
Six degrees of freedom (DoF) technology monitors head motion with the help of gyroscopes, accelerometers, and other sensors to adjust the screen’s orientation accordingly. Additionally, some VR headsets have eye-tracking sensors that can detect when a user is looking directly at a virtual object or location.
Lenses and screens
The lenses and display assembly are the primary components of the VR headset. The image is distorted by stereoscopic lenses before it reaches your eyes, giving the impression of depth.
Each eye receives its own image through the lens, just as we do when we take in and interpret visual information in the real world. In addition, the display content in VR headsets is subtly shifted in response to head tracking data, giving the impression that images are moving side to side to recreate a 360-degree experience.
A stereo audio feed has two channels, one for each ear, but in the real world, users have a much richer auditory experience, with sound distance and placement having a direct impact on how they interpret their surroundings.
Virtual reality headsets simulate this feeling through the use of 360-degree or immersive audio. One such technology is binaural audio, and the new spatial audio pioneered by companies like Apple is a significant step forward in the evolution of virtual reality (VR) audio.
The controllers for your virtual reality headset serve as your link between the virtual and physical worlds. Intriguingly, you aren’t limited to the pair of handheld controllers that normally comes with a VR headset.
Examples include Samsung’s Gear VR single-hand motion controller and HTC VIVE’s similar single-hand joystick controllers and base station.
It’s been said that Meta is working on a set of haptic-based controllers that will allow for pressure-sensitive touch and navigation. In addition, the controllers in Valve Index have a novel design that is optimized for a fist grip.
Understanding How a VR Headset Functions
All of these parts, along with high-end virtual reality software, are what make the headset work. When the VR headset is turned on, the user is transported to a virtual lobby that serves the same purpose as the desktop in a computer. Users can access a variety of functions, including the ability to update their devices, alter their settings, and socialize with other digital avatars.
While this is happening, images are being fed through a video source, which could be a smartphone, desktop computer, or even the cloud, in today’s headsets. What you see on the screen is a stereoscopic 3D image created when the lens splits the video image in half. Built-in sensors allow for subtle alterations to the setting in response to your gaze, eye movement, and hand gestures.
Despite their simplicity, virtual reality headsets pack a lot of punch. Productivity apps, for instance, let you design products in VR and then save them as 3D files in the cloud. In order to render and update content instantly, high-end virtual reality headsets have a very fast screen refresh rate.
What Makes a Good VR Headset?
Key features of a high-quality virtual reality headset include:
Any headset heavier than 500-600 grams will be cumbersome to use on a regular basis due to the weight of the screen and sensors. This is why Apple’s forthcoming MR headset, at a current weight of 150 grams, represents a significant advancement in the field.
Controllers that are simple to use despite having a plethora of controls for moving around in virtual reality. They need to be user-friendly and built with comfort in mind.
While most VR headsets rely on the web and the cloud, having at least 32GB of onboard storage is helpful for installing programs, making sure that updates happen on time, and keeping a few files on hand without bogging down the system.
According to IDC’s December 2021 report, VR headset shipments will top 9.36 million in 2021 and rise to 13.59 million across the globe by 2022. Improved, more accessible, and comprehensive virtual reality (VR) experiences are on the horizon, thanks to innovations that build on these foundational features.
These are the Best VR Headsets:
1. Meta Quest 2
If you’re in the market for a virtual reality headset but aren’t sure exactly what you want, look no further than TheMeta Quest 2. The Oculus Quest 2 still provides a fantastic virtual reality experience for anyone who uses it. It’s shockingly affordable and has such remarkable adaptability that it’s hard to imagine ever looking elsewhere. You don’t need a PC or console to enjoy a virtual theater, an immersive world of games, loads of fitness fun, or to meet up face-to-face with others in virtual spaces.
The Meta Quest 2’s high per-eye resolution eliminates the screen-door effect, resulting in incredibly detailed images. Like the first generation Oculus Rift CV1, it has a smooth 90Hz refresh rate. This headset not only provides excellent experiences when used independently thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chipset and 128GB of storage, but it can also be connected to a powerful gaming PC to facilitate the use of desktop-style applications. And because it’s wireless and has simple controls, you’re not tied down to a single location. If you’re concerned about venturing too far from the safe confines of the play area, a boundary can be set up to alert you. Even at a price of $300, this headset would be difficult to top.
2. PlayStation VR
PC gamers have an especially easy time getting their hands on VR experiences, but console gamers need not feel left out in the cold. PlayStation VR allows PS4 players (and PS5 players with an adapter) to immerse themselves in games to a greater degree. Although this system is no longer manufactured individually, it is still available in a bundle. If you can stand the suspense, however, PlayStation VR2 won’t be long in coming. The original PlayStation VR is a relatively low-key setup, lacking in flashy features like room-scale tracking or ultra-high resolution displays. Many of the best VR games have been released for PSVR, so while it may lack those extreme features, it more than makes up for it in quality experiences.
The PSVR has a 960 x 1,080 resolution per eye, and a 120 Hz refresh rate to ensure fluid visuals. In addition, a field of view of 100 degrees is all you need to really get lost in your games. You can wear this headset for hours without any discomfort, but be prepared for a mess of wires. The VR headset is only part of the equation; in order to play, you’ll also need a dedicated camera and motion controllers. The PSVR was designed for the PS4 and PS4 Pro, but it is compatible with the PS5. Sony’s dedication to maintaining support for its headset is commendable, as evidenced by the availability of a free adapter for the PlayStation Camera.
3. HTC Vive Cosmos
HTC made a splash when it introduced the original Vive, and the company’s Vive Cosmos is a great option for PC gamers interested in virtual reality. Because it is plug-and-play, setting it up couldn’t be easier. If you want to play without a wire, however, it is compatible with HTC’s official Wireless Adapter, which transmits a high-quality, low-latency stream of your VR experience. After initial setup, the headset’s halo-shaped headband provides comfort and allows for quick removal. It also ditches the original Vive’s wands in favor of a controller design similar to that of competing headsets.
The Vive Cosmos has excellent resolution, with a total of 2,880 x 1,700 pixels (or 1,440 x 1,700 per eye). That level of sharpness is even higher than the Valve Index, and it aids in reducing the screen-door effect. Small LCD panels power the display, allowing for the high refresh rate necessary to pull off the display’s resolution. In addition to the stunning visuals, the 3D spatial audio provides a fully engrossing environment. If you can get past the tracking problems, especially in dim environments, this headset has a lot going for it in terms of features.
4. Valve Index
In the case of the Valve Index, a relatively small investment can yield significant returns. You can see why this is the pinnacle of PC-based VR headsets once you get past the fact that the whole package will set you back a cool grand. Each of your eyes can take in 1,440 by 1,600 at a smooth 120 hertz. The “experimental” 144Hz refresh rate is also an option, but it may cause some stuttering. And with a 130-degree field of view, you’ll be able to take in a lot of detail beyond the center of your vision. The headset provides exceptional comfort, ensuring that you won’t mind wearing it for extended periods of time while gaming.
If you decide to go all in with the Valve Index, you’ll get a brand new set of controllers that feature full finger tracking and new base stations that support a larger play area. Combine four of these home bases and you’ve got yourself an insane, 100 square meter arena. However, SteamVR’s adaptability allows you to save money by piecing together older, less expensive Vive components.
5. HTC Vive Pro 2
The HTC Vive Pro 2 is the way to go if you’re looking for a headset with excellent resolution. This virtual reality headset builds on HTC’s legacy of excellence, but adds a more refined display to take your immersion to new heights. The HTC Vive Pro 2 eliminates the screen-door effect with a resolution of 2,448 x 2,448 per eye.
There are additional benefits to this high-end headset beyond just the resolution. You’ll feel even more immersed in whatever virtual world you visit, thanks to the sharp display’s smooth 120Hz refresh rate and 120-degree field of view. The included headphones are Hi-Res Certified, so you can listen to high-quality audio without disturbing anyone else. The HTC Vive Pro 2 requires a beefy computer for optimal performance, but if you’re looking for the pinnacle of virtual reality, you probably already have that covered.
6. Pimax 5K Super
Is complete virtual reality immersion something you’re ready for? If so, the Pimax 5K Super has likely caught your eye but remained just out of reach. You can immerse yourself in your virtual worlds with a staggering 200-degree field of view. That alone, let alone its additional requirements, should serve as a warning to only those who possess the most powerful computers. The high entry price may deter some who aren’t serious gamers, but it’s well worth it for anyone who is. SteamVR, on the other hand, allows you to mix and match components to reduce the overall price.
With the Pimax 5K Super, you get the visual equivalent of two 1440p displays side by side, each running at 180Hz. It’s twice as fast as the previous-generation Pimax 5K XR. Clear visuals are yours for the taking if your rig can run games at a high frame rate and resolution. However, if you already have the necessary hardware, this headset will prove to be an invaluable ally in your virtual adventures.
7. HP Reverb G2
The HP Reverb G2 is a lightweight, flexible, and affordable virtual reality headset that won’t strain your head, eyes, or wallet. There are a ton of games that are compatible with the Windows Mixed Reality headset that can be purchased for less than $600. In addition, the high resolution display provides 4,320 by 2,160 pixels, or 2,160 by 2,160 for each eye. Focus issues can be remedied by using the IPD slider to bring the display into precise alignment with the user’s eyes. Add in the silky 90Hz refresh rate, and you have a setup that’s easy on the eyes.
Everything you need is included in the HP Reverb G2. The virtual reality headset and two ergonomically designed controllers are included in the package. Because it does not require any external base stations to track the position of the headset and controllers, setup is much easier than with systems like the Valve Index. HP completes the package by including in-ear headphones that are comparable to those on the Valve Index.
What to look for in a VR Headset
Although these are currently the most popular VR headsets, they are not the only ones available or on the horizon (Sony’s PlayStation VR2 is one such example). Here are some things to consider when shopping for a virtual reality headset.
Any platform-compatible virtual reality headset is worth considering. Get a SteamVR headset if you already own a powerful gaming PC and have a room large enough for room-scale VR. Don’t second-guess your gut and get the Meta Quest 2 if you’re more likely to play on a standalone system despite the lower graphical quality.
Keep in mind that PSVR games will only be available on PlayStations, and that Meta has some exclusive games for its headsets, when deciding which platform to purchase. Almost any PC-based VR headset will be compatible with SteamVR because of SteamVR’s open nature. It is possible, but not guaranteed, that Revive will allow you to play a Meta-exclusive game on a SteamVR device.
When your face is inches from the screen, resolution and refresh rate become more important. A lot. The “screen door effect,” where individual pixels are discernible due to the large amount of space between them, is more common at lower resolutions. It’s important to keep in mind that resolution isn’t the only determinant of image quality.
Don’t ignore frame rate either; a high resolution display is great, but if the refresh rate is less than 90Hz, the image may appear choppy and may cause serious motion sickness in some viewers.
Room-scale play, as opposed to stationary play, provides the most immersive virtual reality (VR) experiences because it enables you to move freely within the virtual environment, crouch, jump, and turn your head in any direction. This category includes the vast majority of the headsets mentioned above.
The Oculus Go, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Daydream View, all based on smartphones, support fewer degrees of freedom than the HTC Vive Pro by only tracking head swivel and tilt. Those cheaper headsets are fine for watching movies and playing games while sitting down, but if you want to get the most out of virtual reality, you should get something that supports room-scale play.
Some headsets, like the HP Reverb G2 and Meta Quest 2, have an “inside-out” tracking system, allowing for room-scale play without the need for external sensors or cameras. The HTC Vive Pro 2 and the Valve Index are two alternatives that use motion tracking based on a set of base stations strategically placed around the room. For serious gamers, these systems can be more precise than inside-out systems, but they also tend to be more noticeable, so you’ll need to decide which is best for your home.
Finally, think about how “tethered” you want to be to a place when deciding between wired and wireless connections. While the best virtual reality headsets do require a connection to your computer, portable systems give you more freedom of movement. (For cordless PC-powered VR, an optional wireless adapter is available for the HTC Vive Cosmos and Vive Pro 2.)
If you’re only going to play in one room, getting wired up isn’t the worst option because you’ll get the highest resolution and picture quality. Going wireless removes the risk of losing a device, but adds the need to keep track of battery life.
Virtual reality has come a long way in a short amount of time, but it is still in its infancy. While there is currently no “perfect” virtual reality headset, keeping the above in mind should help you find one that works well for you. Make sure your arm doesn’t go through the wall or anything.
One should know what the virtual world means and its characteristics after learning about the pros and cons of VR technology. In a nutshell, VR has the potential to amaze and educate, while also relieving stress by providing the thrill of virtually visiting a new and exciting location.