By Mark Stone
Just when you thought you were getting a handle on the gadgetry of virtual reality (VR), new hardware comes along with cutting-edge specifications and another acronym.
But the advances they bring are worth taking the time to understand.
The advances take the form of new head mounted displays (HMDs) that are designed to reduce setup time and provide a powerful experience by mixing the real world with virtual ones.
The straightforward nature of these headsets is what differentiates them. Whereas standard headsets require cameras and sensors to be placed around the room to track your motion, these have the cameras and sensors mounted on them.
“When you look at VR devices in the past, it’s ultimately a long and cumbersome process with installation taking a very long time,” said Hassan Anjum, senior manager of product strategy and marketing for mobile computing at Samsung. “With mixed reality [headsets], it’s plug and play. You plug in your HDMI and USB. And you’re good to go.”
These new HMDs plug into a desktop or laptop that meets the minimum hardware requirements and isn’t just limited to gaming specifications. Setup takes less than 10 minutes, including pairing the handheld Bluetooth controllers that control movement.
This promises to open the floodgates to 360-degree videos, games and more.
“It’s such an easy experience to get a hold of. We want more people to try it out, and the more that do will recommend [it to others],” Anjum said.
Looking Ahead At VR
These headsets also allow mixed reality (MR) in which real and virtual worlds are combined. Their ease-of-use paves the way for this platform to be targeted beyond gamers to a mass audience.
Developed by Microsoft, Windows MR was developed to create augmented reality applications that mix the virtual and the real. Essentially, anything Microsoft creates to alter your reality is considered Mixed Reality. Currently, there are no mixed reality applications, but they are expected shortly.
To run Windows Mixed Reality applications, you’ll need a less powerful processor and less memory than you would running VR. (Minimum requirement for MR: Intel Core i5 7200U, dual-core with Intel Hyper-Threading Technology enabled processor, at least 8GB of RAM, and a good graphics card.
With the minimum PC requirements met, you can buy any of several commercially available MR headsets. One, the Samsung HMD Odyssey, is already receiving industry accolades.
A CES 2018 Innovation Award honoree, the HMD Odyssey boasts dual 3.5-inch AMOLED displays, each with 1440×1600 resolution and a refresh rate up to 90 hertz, or cycles per second. The headset is equipped with built-in AKG headphones that produce a rich 360-degree spatial sound and won’t shake loose during gameplay.
According to Anjum, Samsung set out to build the most precise and most differentiated device with the Odyssey. And these headsets may be just the tip of the iceberg as VR continues to enter the mainstream.
An IDC report predicts that the global market for virtual and augmented reality equipment will grow tenfold from $14 billion this year to $143 billion in 2020.
If VR technology has already yielded headsets with dual AMOLED displays to close out 2017, what’s in store for 2020 should be mind-blowing.