Virtual reality is a technology that has been talked about a lot over the last decade. All of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, along with other major brands like Sony, have been throwing billions of dollars at developing virtual reality headsets and software.
The technology is by no means new though. Inventors have been experimenting with the concept of creating immersive viewing and gaming experiences for much of the last century. In the 1920s, a flight simulator called the “Link Trainer” is considered to be an early attempt at VR, while the 1962 Sensorama machine more closely resembles a modern virtual reality experience.
Nintendo even tried to have a stab at VR gaming back in the 1990s with its failed Virtual Boy console. Using a headset that rested on a table using a tripod, gamers could enjoy a limited number of titles in an odd black and red monochrome style. It was a huge commercial flop, but the devices have become collector’s items.
Modern-day VR technology is a huge step forward from all of these devices though, opening up many new possibilities that had not previously been possible.
But if you’ve not tried VR before, you may be wondering where to start, what hardware you need, and what you can get from the technology.
Choosing the Right Hardware
There are three main types of consumer virtual reality headset you can buy. The most expensive are ones that you can plug into a computer; these typically offer up better graphics and more features.
The cheapest work by inserting a smartphone onto the front, with the phone doing all of the heavy liftings. Most modern smartphones can be used for this, though newer and more powerful devices will provide a better experience.
The third category really only contains one device: the Sony PlayStation VR headset. Instead of plugging into a computer, it connects to a PlayStation 4 or 5 so that it can work with some games.
The type of device you buy will depend on many different factors, including what you want to use the headset for and how much you’re willing to spend.
If you are just dipping your toe into the VR waters, you may want to start off with a cheaper device. Then, if you like it, you can always buy a more powerful device later.
If you are buying a device that needs to be plugged into a computer, you will also need to check that it has the processing power to handle the games or other content you intend to run.
For example, PokerStars VR needs a computer with at least an NVIDIA GTX 970 graphics card, 8 GB of memory, and an Intel i5-4590 processor. Gorilla Tag, another VR game, has similar requirements, though can cope with just 4GB of memory.
Finding the Right Software and Content
While gaming has taken much of the attention, it is not the only thing you can use VR for. There is a wealth of different content available in virtual reality format, including music videos, movies, and even live concerts.
For example, Oculus owners can enjoy a number of Disney movies in virtual reality, being able to look around a scene as they watch.
Other options for watching VR movies include Dunkirk, The Conjuring 2, and The Invisible Man.
Most VR headset manufacturers have their own app stores, similar to what you’d find on your smartphone. One of the biggest is Oculus, which has a catalogue brimming with games and apps like YouTube VR and Netflix.
Steam is another great source of VR games, with support for different manufacturers and models.
YouTube, Facebook, and Rad are also great resources where you can find virtual reality content.
Finding Virtual Reality Accessories
It’s not just about having the headset, though; there are other accessories you can use to get the most out of your virtual reality experience.
For users of the PlayStation VR headset, there are a number of peripherals that can make the experience even more immersive. For example, the 3dRudder is a motion controller that you place under your feet. You can then control your character by tilting the device in the direction you’d like to travel.
If you are going to be using your headset for extended VR gaming sessions, you may want to invest in foam straps and vents that can make the experience more pleasant. Touch controllers, a battery pack that you attach to your back, and improved headphones can all take your VR gaming to the next level.