Finally, a VR headset worth owning

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Sony-Morpheus20140331With Facebook’s announced purchase of Oculus—manufacturer of the Rift virtual reality (VR) headset—last week, it’s only a matter of time before consumers can finally get their hands on a VR headset that’s actually worth buying.

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By this time next year, there could be a marketing war to win the hearts and minds of gamers bent on owning the next big thing in tech toys.

It’s about time. For the past four decades, various manufacturers have tried to produce a VR headset that didn’t cause users to get dizzy or nauseous. From the looks of things, technology has finally caught up with the initial units of the Oculus Rift drawing raves from reviewers.

Sony’s Project Morpheus just about seals the deal for the certain creation of a VR headset likely to be priced at the $250 to $350 range, or somewhere between P10,000 and P15,000. The first sets will probably be on the high side, but if the product succeeds as expected, prices should go down fast.

A Rift vs Morpheus battle will involve software developers, and the company that entices winning games will end up grabbing initial market share of what is sure to become a billion dollar global industry in the medium term.

The final product that Sony and Facebook will release to entice the market may not be the only ones. Other manufacturers are certainly going to create their own VR headsets, including cheap knockoffs from China.

My guess is that the two big players will both produce 2D versions of the product, then experiment with 3D shortly thereafter. And while the headset is intended mostly for gamers, it shouldn’t take too long before movies, TV shows and concerts can be watched in the gadget.

More than a decade ago, a young co-worker of mine brought one such VR headset to the office. Of course I had to try it out. I was expecting to be brought into a virtual world that was close enough to the real world that it would offer hours of fun escape.

I must have worn that headset for all of two minutes. The biggest problem back then was that the user was only heading into an 8-bit world where everything looked like a cheap video game.

Worse, every slight head movement would cause a spinning sensation. That “VR headset” was little more than a fancy toy that I most certainly did not want to own.

In the years since, there have been other headsets that were made not for gaming but mostly for watching TV or movies. These personal viewer headsets were priced out of the range of most consumers though. One model retailed at around $1,500. It’s low end counterpart may have sold at around $300, but there were few takers for the same reason as the abovementioned unit I tested more than a decade ago.

While the visuals may have improved substantially, there was still the problem of natural head movement getting in the way of watching a movie or playing a game. Imagine watching a movie in a theatre while there are constant earthquake aftershocks.

The Rift and the Morpheus may change all that. Two of the biggest companies in the world are betting that it will.

Quote of the week:
“Technology is changing our lives. It cannot and will not change what is fundamental to the human condition. It will never change the way we are, or how we feel.” – Robert White

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