Implementing virtual or augmented reality into a project can be confusing when it comes to deciding between all of the hardware options. We completely understand how that feels, so we’ve put together a straightforward guide for choosing between the technologies.
|Augmented Reality||Google Cardboard||Samsung Gear VR||Oculus Rift||HTC Vive|
|Indirect Price||Modern smartphone||Modern smartphone||Samsung Galaxy S6 or newer||VR-capable computer||VR-capable computer|
|Pixel Density||Depends on smartphone:
iPhone X: 458 ppi
|Depends on smartphone:
Pixel 2: 441 ppi
|Depends on smartphone:
Galaxy S9: 570 ppi
|461 ppi||456 ppi|
|Degrees of Freedom||3 (pitch, yaw, roll)||3 (pitch, yaw, roll)||3 (pitch, yaw, roll)||6 (pitch, yaw, roll, elevating, strafing, walking)||6 (pitch, yaw, roll, elevating, strafing, walking)|
|Weight||Weight of smartphone (5-8 oz)||3.3 oz + smartphone (5-8 oz)||11.2 oz + smartphone (5-8 oz)||16.6 oz||19.6 oz|
|Tracking||Head||Head||Head, one hand||Head, two hands||Head, two hands|
This is not an exhaustive table, but it contains many of the most popular headsets. Others such as the Google Daydream may also be useful for your projects.
When it comes to the Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, the Google Cardboard is literally a folded cardboard box with inexpensive lenses. Although users will miss out on a premium feel and hand tracking, the Cardboard is still a fun and cheap solution that is relatively easy to distribute to a large number of people. You may consider it if you seek to reach a large user base cheaply and have a very simple VR experience.
Choosing between the Rift and Vive can be difficult, so you may consider that the Rift is cheaper, lighter, and more ergonomic. Meanwhile, the Vive is known for having the best room-scale tracking sensors. But at the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with either.
AR is used to overlay visuals onto the user’s real environment. The most famous example of this is mobile game “Pokémon Go” where Pokémon appear on your smartphone screen when exploring your neighborhood allowing you to battle or capture them. Some use cases that you can use AR for include previewing products in your environment (e.g. furniture) and playing fun interactive games (e.g. scavenger hunts).
Side note: there is also a variant of AR called mixed reality (MR). We’ll cover MR in a separate article because the difference can be ambiguous, but it basically means that the 3D objects can interact with your real environment. In other words, 3D objects are “anchored” to your real environment, and you can also interact with those objects through prompts such as hand gestures. Some examples of MR headsets include the Microsoft Hololens and Magic Leap One.
AR is a cheaper alternative to VR when appropriate. AR to a customer costs nothing more than a newer smartphone (which most adults in the US own) and the app itself (which typically costs little to nothing). When it comes to MR, however, the headsets become pricier than the high-end virtual reality headsets.
Smartphone Virtual Reality
Smartphone VR is used to bring a VR experience to large numbers of people. Not everyone has high-end VR hardware, but most people have smartphones. You may consider using this in showrooms; all you need is a smartphone and a relatively nice VR headset like a Samsung Gear VR. You can also release an app for people to see your showroom or product from their home using their own smartphone and headset.
Smartphone VR is relatively low in upfront cost to customers. It mainly requires a smartphone and any of the various smartphone VR headsets such as a Google Cardboard (which you could distribute yourself) or Samsung Gear VR ($99). This is slightly more than AR which doesn’t require a headset at all, but it provides an incredibly immersive experience which AR doesn’t come close to.
High-End Virtual Reality
Currently high-end VR is mostly used for gaming as well as interactive and graphically complex software. This form of VR has 6 degrees of freedom, allowing for different rotations and movements unavailable in other forms of VR. This allows new actions such as picking objects off the ground, moving and interacting with the environment. If you have a very expensive product or showroom, or big clients to present to, this may be the way to go. High-end VR systems like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive are incredibly immersive and high fidelity in terms of image quality, movement accuracy, and soundstage. Users are sure to be amazed. However, outside of in-house activities, the usage is limited by the necessary hardware, so it’s important to properly target customers or businesses with the necessary hardware.
To use high-end VR, you need both a high-end VR headset, and a high-end computer (likely a desktop). This is several times more expensive than other VR hardware, but this comes with an incredible upgrade in sensory immersion. If quality of experience is paramount, you should use these systems for the top experiences in VR.
Virtual and augmented reality are exciting new technologies with many implementation options. Choosing the best platform to implement your vision is crucial to succeeding with immersive technology. If you have additional questions pertaining to your specific business or use case, we would be happy to help! Just send your thoughts to [email protected] and we’ll respond to you shortly.