VR head­sets for iPhone

VR for Mac is still some way away, but iOS users have a few op­tions. Lewis Pain­ter rounds up your choices

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

Mo­bile VR may not be quite the pre­mium ex­pe­ri­ence that ex­pen­sive vir­tual re­al­ity head­sets pro­vide, but it of­fers a way for mo­bile users to ex­pe­ri­ence VR on a bud­get. In­stead of fea­tur­ing high-res­o­lu­tion dis­plays, sen­sors and pow­er­ful in­ter­nals in the vir­tual re­al­ity head­set, mo­bile VR re­lies on your iPhone to pro­vide the dis­play, sen­sors and brains of the VR, while the job of the head­set is to pro­vide spe­cial VR lenses and a way to hold your iPhone.

The idea is that you’ll load up a VR-en­abled app on your iPhone, then slot it into the head­set and put it on your head. The app then uses the myr­iad of sen­sors al­ready avail­able on the iPhone to repli­cate your head move­ments, al­low­ing you to look around a vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment. Of course, only us­ing smart­phone sen­sors means that it won’t be quite as re­spon­sive as pre­mium VR and you may ex­pe­ri­ence a slight lag when turn­ing your head, but it shouldn’t be enough to in­duce mo­tion sick­ness (an is­sue that VR man­u­fac­tur­ers had to over­come in early de­vel­op­ment).

Not all mo­bile VR head­sets are bud­get though; Sam­sung fa­mously man­u­fac­tured the Gear VR, which is pow­ered by Ocu­lus, the com­pany be­hind the hugely pop­u­lar (and Face­book owned) Ocu­lus Rift. The com­pany uses Ocu­lus tech­nol­ogy to pro­vide a more pre­mium VR ex­pe­ri­ence and cou­pled with the QHD dis­plays of its flag­ship Gal­axy se­ries and a gen­er­ally well-built, com­fort­able head­set, it pro­vides a great mo­bile vir­tual re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence. The only is­sue is that the Gear VR is only com­pat­i­ble with Gal­axy S6/S6 Edge or newer de­vices, so iOS users are out of luck. There are other al­ter­na­tives though, which we dis­cuss be­low.

If you’re stuck for VR app ideas, there’s a va­ri­ety VR-en­abled apps al­ready on the App Store, in­clud­ing the likes of Sis­ters, a rel­a­tively short but scary VR ex­pe­ri­ence and Van­gard V, a sin­gle level space-shooter. Most VR apps are free, but you may come across a hand­ful of paid, pre­mium ex­pe­ri­ences too – we’ve listed our favourite VR apps for iPhone on page 59.

Google Card­board Price: £5.29

The cheap­est way to ex­pe­ri­ence VR on an iPhone is us­ing Google Card­board. As you can prob­a­bly guess by the name, it is pri­mar­ily made from card­board, and the in­struc­tions on how to build it your­self can be found at tinyurl.com/zvLzpw2. It re­quires you to source parts like lenses your­self, but these can be eas­ily found on­line or in high street shops. You can build your own, but if that isn’t your style, you’ll be glad to know that you can also buy pre-built head­sets cheaply – we found it on Ama­zon for just £5.29. All you need to do is fold the card­board.

Of course, be­ing made from card­board, it isn’t the most com­fort­able head­set to wear, espe­cially over long pe­ri­ods of time. It’s a good start­ing point for mo­bile VR users, but if you find your­self still want­ing to use VR after the ini­tial nov­elty has worn off, it may be worth in­vest­ing in a slightly more ex­pen­sive (but more com­fort­able) op­tion.

Ho­mido VR Price: £47

The Ho­mido VR head­set is a good op­tion for iOS users that want a more pre­mium mo­bile VR ex­pe­ri­ence. The head­set is de­signed with com­fort in mind, with soft pad­ding to stop your skin be­com­ing ir­ri­tated when wear­ing it, while also dou­bling up as a com­fort­able way to com­bat light leak­age. It also has a 100-de­gree field of view thanks to its spe­cially de­signed lenses, which should help pro­vide a more im­mer­sive VR ex­pe­ri­ence. As well as this, it of­fers con­trols that let you ad­just the dis­tance be­tween the lenses, as every­body has a slightly dif­fer­ent fa­cial shape.

It’s great if you wear glasses too, as you can ad­just the dis­tance be­tween your eyes and the smart­phone. It comes with three op­tions to tog­gle be­tween – far sighted, near sighted and nor­mal vi­sion. The Ho­mido Cen­ter app for iOS fea­tures a cat­a­logue of VR-en­abled apps avail­able at your fin­ger­tips in­clud­ing games and ex­pe­ri­ences.

Merge VR Price: £69

If you’re look­ing for some­thing a lit­tle fancier, the Merge VR head­set may be a good op­tion, fit­ting the vast ma­jor­ity of iPhones and other smart­phones on the mar­ket. The Merge VR is a funky look­ing pur­ple VR head­set that of­fers a stur­dier and com­fort­able ex­pe­ri­ence with ven­ti­la­tion ports and a flex­i­ble and ex­tremely com­fort­able foam body.

The in­ter­est­ing fea­ture of the Merge VR head­set is that it in­cludes two but­tons on the top of the head­set, al­low­ing you to in­ter­act with com­pat­i­ble VR apps – this may be used to fire a weapon, tog­gle dif­fer­ent view­ing modes, and so on. It also fea­tures cam­era ac­cess, al­low­ing the Merge VR head­set to be used with aug­mented re­al­ity apps too. The com­pany is also due to re­lease the HOLO CUBE later this year, of­fer­ing aug­mented re­al­ity ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Carl Zeiss VR One Price: $99 (around £74)

The Carl Zeiss VR One head­set is an­other VR head­set that utilises the tech­nol­ogy in your smart­phone to pro­vide you with a vir­tual ex­pe­ri­ence. The head­set comes with a tray that you slot your phone into, and that slots into the head­set it­self – you can choose from ei­ther the iPhone 6, Gal­axy S5 or S6 phone tray when or­der­ing, with the com­pany pro­vid­ing CAD files for you to design and 3D print your own for use with other phones. The head­set in­cludes vents that stop the lenses from fog­ging up and pro­vides an FOV of around 100 de­grees.

The VR One also fea­tures a see-through front shield, al­low­ing the use of smart­phone cam­eras in aug­mented re­al­ity (AR) apps avail­able for iOS and An­droid. The per­for­mance and graph­ics vary de­pend­ing on the power and res­o­lu­tion of your smart­phone, so take that into con­sid­er­a­tion be­fore hand­ing over your money.

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