Virtual Reality is often touted as the next big thing when it comes to technology. However, many skeptics of technology point out that virtual reality still remains virtually inaccessible to the majority of mainstream consumers. One of the main reasons cited for this, is the cost of owning VR equipment.
When it comes to Virtual Reality, the most important piece of hardware is a Virtual reality headset. In this article we will be dwelling deeper into the virtual world, understanding what VR headsets do, how they work and their types. But most importantly we will be answering your question; why is VR so expensive?
What is a Virtual Reality Headset?
A Virtual reality headset is a head-mounted display (HMD) which allows users to interact with simulated environments through a first person perspective. Virtual reality headsets are used in various applications such as simulators, trainers and video games.
How do VR headsets work?
Head-mounted displays are of two types, monocular HMDs which have a single optic for both eyes, and binocular HMDs which have an optic for each eye. For a 3D perspective, binocular HMDs are required. Virtual Reality headsets are binocular HMDs with an inertial measurement unit (IMU). An IMU is a device that measures the body’s specific force, angular rate and orientation. IMUs use gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometers to measure these quantities.
Different Types of Headsets
Virtual Reality has been around for a long time, however, the hardware required to experience it calls for huge investments. The equipment used to be bulky, costly and needed a lot of power to run. Modern VR headsets have revolutionized the technology. These days we have the opportunity to experience virtual reality from the comfort of our homes itself. Let’s look at the various types of VR headsets that are available in the market today.
1. Smartphone Powered Headsets
Virtual reality technology has made a lot of progress, allowing you to experience the virtual world through your smartphones, too. Smartphone compatible VR headsets use your phone’s screen to provide you with a virtual reality experience. The lenses of your headset create a sense of depth using your phone’s display to give you a 3D vision.
Smartphone powered VR headsets are relatively cheaper than other types of VR headsets. However, the main drawback of these headsets is that the experience may not be as immersive as other options available in the market. Another factor is the lack of content- being a relatively new technology there aren’t many options when it comes to smartphone apps, games or movies that utilize virtual reality. However, this is changing with the growing popularity of VR.
So, if you are looking to experience Virtual reality, but are on a budget, you could consider investing in a pair of smartphone powered VR headsets. There are a ton of options out there in the market that can provide you with a virtual reality experience that is value for money.
2. Standalone Headsets
Standalone VR headsets are also known as all-in-one VR headsets. These headsets come with their own built in processors, display, sensors, battery and storage.
These headsets require very little external interaction to function, most VR headsets require high-end PCs or smart phones to give the best experience. The main benefit of these headsets is it removes the hassle of making sure your device (phone or PC) is compatible with your headset. Standalone VR headsets only require a cable to charge and a smartphone to initially set up the VR platforms on the device. If you have a low-end smartphone or PC, you can still experience virtual reality through standalone VR headsets. Standalone VR headsets are also wireless and allow you to move around freely. While these headsets are great, they lack in quality of graphics and display when compared to tethered headsets, because they offer lower frame rates and resolutions.
3. Tethered Headsets
These VR headsets are known to provide the most immersive and premium VR experience. Tethered VR headsets are connected physically to your PC by USB or HDMI.
They are capable of providing the best virtual reality experience. However, the cost of setup is really high. A high-end tethered VR headset will also require a high specification PC setup, with a solid processor, graphics card and RAM. With these headsets there are many additional investments like controllers, cameras and sensors. With a high end set up you can truly experience a life-like virtual reality experience with these headsets.
Why are VR headsets so expensive? – The costs
Why are VR headsets so expensive? One of the main reasons why VR headsets are so expensive is because the technology is still a work in progress. VR headsets have a high volume of proprietary hardware items in them. Also, VR headsets aren’t produced in large enough quantities to bring their price down.
Tethered VR headsets are particularly expensive. A good quality one can easily cost you anywhere between $600 to $1000. Their hardware includes lenses, motion sensors, custom display screens, accelerometers, and gyroscopes. In addition to the cost of the headset, you will also need to invest in a high-end gaming computer, which can further cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
If you’re a casual gamer or just looking to get some VR experience, investing in a smartphone powered VR headset is a good idea. They’re relatively inexpensive and can give you an immersive, panoramic 360 degree view in videos and games.
Standalone VR headsets are a good option to invest in if you’re looking for a slightly more immersive VR experience, but don’t have a high-end PC that is compatible with a tethered VR headset. The standalone VR headset is a great blend of decent performance and value for money.
If you have money to invest in VR, consider a Tethered VR headset. They will give you the most premium VR experience when paired with the right PC and equipment.
All in all the cost of investing in VR is certainly on the high side. However, in recent times this technology is becoming more mainstream and much more content is being released in virtual reality. Many manufacturers and technology Giants such as Facebook are investing huge amounts into this technology, which will only help it improve and become more accessible to the general public.