Welcome to the VR age!

PSVR get the fit right, the price right, the games right. They nailed it.

PSVR steps up with a fantastic debut



With PSVR. Sony has crashed the VR party and put Oculus, HTC and others on notice that they still have work to do. The headset is cheaper, more comfortable to wear and has some great games available at launch. The other players in the VR world seem to have focused on creating the technology but not the games to go with it. Sony didn’t make that mistake and have leapfrogged into the lead with a wearable headset, games and a good price.


Let’s talk about the fit, The Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and other VR headsets all relied on your nose playing part of the support role for the headset. This meant that you had a sweatier experience in VR and had to constantly wipe the equipment down between uses ewwww! If you wear makeup, you just aren’t going to use VR, because your make up will be all over the headset and you will need to go and freshen up after using it. I’m married to somebody who uses make up and when asked to try VR they flatly said no. Playstation VR is different as it supports the headset from above, using your head as a support, not your nose. When showed new fit and encouraged by the fact it only cost £349 said wife was happy to try PSVR and enjoyed it as well.



Things are looking good for PSVR, have you tried it? What did you think?


Is VR Drone Racing Set To Explode After Star Wars?

Is VR Drone Racing Set To Explode After Star Wars?


Drones are no longer just for the army or for the remote controlled plane hobbyist with deep pockets anymore. They are lighter, faster and cheaper than they were last year and their popularity is on the increase and showing no sign of stopping. Somebody in your street has a drone, soon we could be flooded with the devices. So if your neighbor's aren't using it to look over the garden fence and spy on you what are they doing with it?

They could be using it for VR racing, using small drones that start off at around £250. People meet up at the weekends and fly around a set track in much the same way people do with remote controlled cars. The track though is in the air and usually has hazards and or loops to navigate around the course. A proper rig including a headset used to view the onboard camera can cost from £500 to £1000. You can of course spend much more on higher end drones but the costs are falling as the sport grows in popularity.



Parrot make a lot of different models at the cheaper end of the market but are about to release the Bebop, a new drone that comes with its own controller, rather than being controlled through a mobile app as with previous Parrot drone models. Mobile app control helps Parrot to keep the cost of their drones low as customers won’t have to pay for a controller as well up front, so they are a perfect starting place for anybody wanting to experience flying a drone for themselves. The downside to mobile app control is that it isn’t that responsive, the small delay or lag makes fine movements difficult.

The Bebop has avoided a gimbal attachment to hold onto a digital camera and point it at what the user wants. They have put a new 180 degree wide angle fisheye lens on a camera mounted centrally between the rotors. It looks less like a toy now and more like a flying HD camera, which this unit essentially is. Rather than moving the camera lens to track around the shot, the user can pan digitally across the 180 wind angle field of view. This approach makes the drone lighter, cheaper and easier to use with less moving parts and things to go wrong.One of the main advantages of the Bebop is that it is easy to use it with many different VR headset systems, including the Oculus, Zeiss and many others. Parrot have seen all the different VR headsets and systems emerging and made their new drone compatible with as many of them if not all.




This holiday season there is big film franchise called Star Wars returning, and they have a drone Millennium Falcon with lights and sound effects as part of the massive marketing machine that comes with the movies. How many new Star Wars drone pilots will take up drone racing in the future?

VR Drone racing is set to grow in my opinion, and with drones having so many different applications and uses, from photography, racing and entertainment, to aiding search and rescue teams by providing mobile cell signals to emergency services working in areas affected by disasters. That toy your child will be playing with next year could turn into his or her career in the future.


Could Augmented Reality Help Us Teach History?

Could Augmented Reality Help Us Teach History?

While watching an episode of Blitz Cities on BBC One last week (still available on the iplayer - here ) I was inspired by the possibilities for AR/Augmented Reality for teaching history and really bringing it to life for students and future generations, especially as our vetrans pass away into the history books.



The wonderful program that I recommend you watch took Ricky Tomlinson down memory lane to the Second World War when he was only very young growing up near the Liverpool docks. It mixed history with eyewitness reports from people he knew and others who survived the terrible bombings at the time. At one point Ricky flies above the Liverpool docks and parts of the UK coastline in a small plane to see the actual paths the German bombers would have taken on their bombing raids 75 years ago and some of the techniques that each side employed to be successful. It was quite chilling to see the original maps the Germans used to target the Liverpool docks in an attempt to cut off our supply routes and win the war early. Ricky had a historian and a pilot with him who did an amazing job of explaining what happened all those years ago and bringing the history to life.


It made me think, could a device like Microsoft's Hololens if worn in a similar situation be an effective way of teaching history? Imagine looking down over the Liverpool docks from a plane wearing a Hololens that could remove all the modern buildings and replace them with the exact buildings and roads from 1942 any other point in history? Factual information laid over this augmented reality experience would have a powerful impact on the wearer and be as exciting as any roller coaster while actually learning something very important at the same time in a new and revolutionary way.The Museum of London created an augmented reality iPhone app in 2010 that allowed you to browse historical photographs in different parts of the city. Are we ready for a more interactive Augmented Reality history experience?


Being part of an actual bombing raid and being fired upon is something that has been covered in many FPS games before now, but the emphasis has always been on entertainment. Being part of the experience in Augmented Reality would work well for education in my opinion when partnered with a powerful history app or game. How long before we can all wear a Hololens or something similar to the National History Museum or to historical sites all around the world?

Press A to see what this site was like 1000’s of years ago, could be a phrase we all might be used to in a few years time.

Is the new Razor HDK cutting edge?

Is the new Razor HDK cutting edge?


Razer, usually known for its funky PC peripherals has been working on their own VR system called the OSVR or “Open Source Virtual Reality headset” for a while now. They announced the latest version called the Hacker Development Kit or HDK v1.3 a few weeks ago, ready to be pre-ordered from October 1st. Check out the hardware dev kits available here.

If you wear glasses the new HDK could be for you.

The development kits that the headset is based on are already in use and are said to be much improved from previous models. The headset comes with a new optics module, offering sharper levels of image quality, so important when viewing a screen strapped close to your eyes. A larger eyebox and individual eye focusing reduces the need for adjustment to get the fit right. If you have a weaker eye and/or need to wear chunky glasses, this could be the headset for you.


More than a high end smartphone.


The upgraded 5.5 inch full HD, 120 Hz display shouts “high end smartphone” to me but the new support for Nvidia's Gameworks VR definitely has me more interested. You can pre-order this headset for around $199 from October 1st, shipping to commence later in the year. Razer also recently announced that a new OSVR content hub OSVR.com is available for OSVR devotees. VR content such as 360 degree videos, VR games and apps are available to use in OSVR format.

Is the Razor HDK v1.3 / VR OSVR 1.3 the one for you? Do you like the way Razer is working with different companies in a consortium format? Let us know what you think on social media.


Microsoft’s Hololens shows us the future.

Microsoft's Hololens shows us the future

The Hololens is an exciting piece of technology. If you aren’t sure what it is or what it actually does then let me start with what Augmented Reality is.

Augmented Reality or AR could be described as a mix of virtual reality and reality reality. Adding information and data in a digital overlay with normal reality you mix the two and create an augmented and improved world to work or play in.

One of the main issues people have with VR is not being able to see their bodies or what is going on around them in the physical world. This full immersion is what many in the VR world crave but it can also make a few people feel unsettled. With Hololens you will still be able to see everything around you so you are far less likely to get that seasick feeling a few people get with VR.


Improve and change the space you know and love


Microsoft’s Hololens wants to improve and change the space you know and love rather than offering a crafted alternative reality. They want to enrich the space around you, your desk, your workspace or where you relax and play games. Augmented reality means your desk at work could come to life with spreadsheets or use Photoshop VR edition and control graphics in new ways right in front of your eyes. Imagine not having to look at a phone anymore to check news feeds and social media. One wall in your house or office simply becomes a massive video wall with regularly updating feeds.

Pushing new boundaries

Hololens is still in its infancy and has a limited field of view compared to some of the other headsets available. Microsoft will continue to develop the technology and I applaud them for pushing the boundaries with new tech such as this and Kinect. Not all the amazing inventions that come through Microsoft make it through to full commercial success or public acceptance, but they do drive technology, bringing the future ever closer.


Could Hololens be a vision of the future?


Although Microsof’t Hololens is still relatively expensive, you do get a small Windows 10 based PC in a headband with a built in heads on display when you spend your money. If they keep developing this technology Augmented Reality could be even bigger than virtual reality. AR has far more applications in the everyday world and I feel it could be adopted in larger numbers than VR when the cost and the size of the devices both reduce.

One day they will be able to fit everything into just a normal pair of sunglasses for a fraction of the cost.

Could Hololens be a vision of that future?


Is the Zeiss VR One the best smartphone VR so far?

Is the Zeiss VR One the best smartphone VR so far?

Zeiss Optics has long been associated with the highest end of optical design and products. They started in 1846 giving them over 150 years of experience with lenses and imaging. It was no surprise then to discover that Zeiss have joined the VR age with its own smartphone based VR headset.

The Zeiss VR One is a mobile VR headset similar to the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard platforms. The device allows users to change the type of phone in use with the headset by simply changing a tray instead of having complicated clips and hinges. This clever design choice increases the devices longevity as users can simply buy or 3D print a new tray rather than having to get a new headset when they get that next cool phone.



Watch a growing number of 360 degree videos

In the past few months Google rolled out Google Cardboard compatibility for the YouTube app. There are a rapidly growing number of 360 degree videos on YouTube and as camera technology improves this number and the quality of the experience is set to rise. Google Cardboard offers a fantastic way of experiencing these 360 videos, but if you are looking for an improved experience with a truly portable device then the Zeiss VR One might be for you. It costs around £120 on Amazon here in the UK.

It has a 100 degree field of view which is more than the Samsung Gear VR. When you use it you can hardly notice the edges of the display at the periphery of your vision. The quality of the lenses is outstanding, as you would expect from Zeiss, really setting the headset apart from its competitors.



Simple design beats more complicated rivals

Using the Zeiss VR One felt natural, and the interchangeable tray system has more advantages on top of making upgrading to a new phone simple and cheap. When you use VR using a smartphone you have to use the phone in its normal state to select the app or game you want to use. The tray system means it is super easy to slide the phone out from the device and select your app or game rather than having to unclip anything or reposition Velcro and straps each time to get the fit right. This meant I spent far more time using the Zeiss VR One as it had a much better user experience than the Google Cardboard which required more hands on tweaking to get the best from it.


The least sweaty headset I have used so far!

Fogging is one issue that some headsets can suffer from after time due to temperature and humidity changes brought on by use or the environment. After testing the Zeiss VR One for 15 days I haven’t had an issue with fogging yet, I put this down to the flexible strap which accommodates even the largest of heads and the gap around the nose which provides added ventilation.  Some users have an issue with. If you look down your nose you can see reality, ending the illusion and bringing you back down to earth. For me though this was an advantage as it meant I could use the system for longer, looking at my desk if needed rather than being completely immersed. One of the advantages of the Zeiss VR One is that it can be worn with glasses on, the extra space allowed for the glasses also keeps the user cool and eliminates fogging.


A fantastic VR experience for outstanding value

Overall the Zeiss VR One is a fantastic entry level VR system if you already have a supported smartphone. It has some smart design features that overcome many of the challenges that VR users face today and with its super high quality lenses is a joy to use. I expect many of the design choices to be picked up by competitors in the future and perhaps Zeiss optics being featured in different headsets as their lenses have featured on different cameras in the past.

The first super-powers of the VR age


Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift is the current leader in the VR race, with many other manufacture's headsets not far behind. The headset, only available as a development kit until now, connects to your PC or Mac type via a cable and acts as a heads on display.

Your computer system needs to have sufficient computation power and a high end graphics card to drive the high resolution images and high frame rates required for this top of the line option.

Apps, games and utilities are run on the PC, with the Oculus acting as a display only. The Oculus Rift detects head movement only, working with special motion sensing hand controllers that combine a thumb stick, triggers and other controls for each hand. There are many different options for input with Oculus Rift, recently they partnered with Microsoft to offer an Xbox1 controller with each headset, its input device of choice.

Oculus Rift is set for public release quarter one 2016


HTC Vive

The HTC Vive is an upcoming virtual reality headset from HTC and Valve Corporation, being co-produced between the two companies. It also forms part of Valve Corporation's SteamVR project.

The HTC Vive looks just like many of the other VR systems on the market right now, but including the ability to move around a room more when using it.

Unlike Cardboard and other wireless devices, the Vive needs to be attached to a powerful PC top work. The main difference between the Vive and its competition is the front of the headset, which is covered with an array of 37 sensors that connect with two wireless infrared cameras.

These cameras are placed in two corners of your room and when used in conjunction with the headset offer the user a virtual space to interact with.

Follow @theVRage for more upcoming HTC Vive press releases and news.



Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard is a great place to start if you are interested in experiencing VR without having to spend a fortune. First thing you need is a smartphone that supports Google Cardboard, then you need a £8 headset that you assemble yourself. All the computing power comes from your phone, meaning the device is wireless and not tethered to a PC.

Your phone will detect your head movement immersing you into the VR world displayed on your phone. The Google Cardboard / VR applications you can download are usually free and offer a fantastic experience.

Google Cardboard viewing devices are available from Amazon priced at around £8 or less. With over 1 million downloads of the Google Cardboard from the play store this is not something you should overlook whatever your budget.

Check it out now on Amazon


Microsoft Hololens

Hololens from Microsoft is an augmented reality platform that mixes the world around us with a digital overlay. The device is basically a small Microsoft Windows 10 PC, mounted on a headset with a visor.

Recent tech demos featuring Minecraft and other applications definitely have the AR and VR communities excited.

Follow @theVRage for more upcoming Hololens news.



VR headsets – A hierarchy of needs

My 5 most important aspects of a vr/ar headset

Hello, I'm Dan!


I've been playing with all the VR headsets I can get my, erm, head on :-/.

The real juicy stuff hasn't been released yet but it will be here soon.  I've had enough time to play with the Oculus, and I've sampled some of the cardboard type systems during this long wait for proper commercial releases. I've had enough time to come to some conclusions on some of the sticking points of VR headsets.  If the manufacturers get these things right they're sure to get some market traction, if not they'll fail even if they score highly in other areas.

1. Facial comfort

Normal people do not take long journeys in a sports car. Sure it's quick, and it corners like it's on rails, but 3 miles in and you can't feel your cheeks! Put the roof down and you won't be able to feel your cheeks either ;-).  It'll be the same in the age of VR.  The headset might have the best optics, it might have the widest possible field of view, but if you can't stand to have it crush the top of your nose for more than 5 minutes it won't have any reasonable applications...except porn perhaps!  Get these things light and comfortable, it's number 1 in my list because it's a non-technical show-stopper.

2. Vomit visor

I'm the guy that can't read on car journeys, I have to see out of a window or I'll feel sick. I'm prone to travel sickness, and motion sickness sends me queasy if I play older low res FPSs! I'm a prime candidate for Virtual Reality Sickness and I've experienced it plenty.

I don't really care what the technical reasons are but if you do then here knock yourself out! What's important is that manufacturers (and developers) eliminate, reduce, or at least manage the issue.

I'll stick to gaming as the application for VR in this topic as that's my only vomit visor experience.

Different games cause different levels of this sickness phenomena and if the issue can't be eliminated then some kind of warning or rating will need to be applied.

Over at share.oculus.com there are plenty of free games and tech demos for use on the Rift (DK2) and consequently there is plenty of variation in vomit rating amongst them. It's strange that I can fly around in a wing suit in the excellent AirDrift and my only nausea issue will be a comfortable approximation of the stomach churn experienced by real wing suit flying, a testament to the quality of the experience perhaps? Whereas a gentle stroll around the grounds of a Tuscan Villa in the ubiquitous Oculus Tuscany Demo will have me blowing chunks and green of hue for some hours.

If the issue remains when the much anticipated commercial version of the Rift is launched then I only hope some consideration has gone into helping the user become gradually 'immersed' by providing ever more challenging experiences. Something completely benign and yet still a full VR experience such as Therapeutic Heights - Relaxation Experience to begin with. Perhaps one whole tutorial application that gradually applies more and more sensory challenges...just don't start in that bloody awful Tuscan nightmare!

3. Field of view

We see a lot out of the corners of our eyes. If the deepest immersion is what is sought for then the field of view must be the widest possible. As soon as our eyes see something from reality then the immersion level drops and the experience is compromised. It'll be important for Augmented Reality too but in functional way rather than a suspension of disbelief thing.

4. Resolution

This is a kind of tipping point issue for me where the virtual reality experience can be dropped in favour of better graphics. The clearest (no pun) example of this is with Elite: Dangerous and the the Oculus Rift DK2. Elite: Dangerous is a beautiful game in all aspects, but in particular its visual delights are frankly awesome. I imagine most people will play Elite at resolutions of 1920x1080 or greater and boy is it pretty. Elite: Dangerous has direct support for the Rift DK2 which is excellent and it's the perfect game for VR. Playing Elite in VR offers you near perfect spacial immersion, it really feels like you're sitting in space. If you've ever been snorkeling on a reef in surging seas then you get the idea...it's that good. The problem comes with the relatively low resolution of the Rift DK2. At 960×1080 per eye things are not as pretty using the Rift, but it's not just graphics snobbery, the resolution isn't high enough to render the control screens properly and that ruins the immersion in my opinion. If I'm meant to be sitting in the cockpit of my super space fighter and I look down at my navigation screen and I can't read it because it's all interlaced then I'm 'back in the room'. Having said all that, it's such a great experience immersing spatially that the poor graphics only just about send me back to the old monitor. Hopefully the new commercial version will be good enough with its 1080x1200 per eye...I can't wait!

5. Compatibility

Broad compatibility, open source development kits and developer collaboration are all required to support the market for a product, and indeed to help push the development and adoption of future versions. Hardware is only as good as its applications and this is particularly so in the gaming world. It's a big issue for non-gaming uses of VR and AR too as most currently used systems are proprietary meaning the manufacturer develops the software AND the hardware. For gaming, a developer community can be particularly beneficial for innovation, longevity and customer loyalty. It's clear from the amount of community created content on share.oculus.com that Oculus ticked this particular box.