Samsung’s Head Mounted Display
Samsung has thrown its hat — head mounted display — into the virtual ring. Starting on October 6th we’ll be able to order their new Windows-compatible “mixed reality” device with controllers for $499, putting it on the same price-footing as the technology’s recent forerunner, the Oculus Rift.
There’s a lot of HMDs hitting the streets these days, from Acer, Dell, and HP to name a few, all which are lining up behind Microsoft’s MR nomenclature, and all with lower system requirements, higher resolution, and lower prices than the flagship HTC Vive. The Samsung Odyssey HMD above will be displaying at 1440×1600 per OLED eye screen, with a 110-degree field of view. The other recent HMDs are displaying at 1440×1440 with a 95-degree field of view, according to an article on The Verge. The Oculus and Vive displays are only 1080×1200 each and have the 110-degree field of vision. In addition, the Odyssey, like the second gen HMDs, do not use external “lighthouses” or markers that need to be placed around the room, and instead, rely on internal tracking in order to help orient the user in real space which makes these HMDs far more portable than their first gen counterparts.
I’ve been really on the fence about PC VR. Prior to now, I would have preferred the Vive mainly because of its tight association with Valve, and because of the BS surrounding the Oculus. However, the price was always going to be a sticking point, even after I upgraded my PC to be able to handle the technical needs of either device. Being as these two devices were “first gen”, only having two options, and the admittedly lackluster software available made it relatively easy to pass up knowing that if VR caught on in any way, there would be another wave of devices that were easier on the requirements, easier on the wallet, and that there would hopefully more reasons to have a VR device.
Mainly it’s been the reasons, though. The PSVR is pretty good; better than the Samsung Gear or anything requiring a cell phone to handle the duties of a binocular display if we want to create a hierarchy. Thing is, I don’t really use the PSVR very much, and I can’t decide if it’s that I’m not using the PSVR, or that I’m not using the PS4. I suspect that it’s the latter because if I could get myself to sit down for the console, I could easily use the headset. In looking at what’s available for the PC, the offerings are of an order of magnitude more plentiful, although a lot of the software is still “game jam” level quality and barely above the fidelity that we had during the Lawnmower Man era of VR. There’s promise — always promise — in projects like Sansar from Linden Labs, makers of Second Life, which places Sansar in exactly the right place for wider VR adoption. Microsoft recently acquired AltspaceVR which is already pumping out shared VR spaces. Although both Altspace and Sansar are bringing the stereotypical VR experiences that we envision when we hear “virtual reality”, they’re also going to have to deal with the Brave New World of a more physical sensation in an era where 4chan exists, something that visionary Raph Koster is already talking about. That’s not appealing, but it’s something we must confront and deal with if we want to have these Nice Things.
I have two days from the posting of this article to consider my options in regards to the Odyssey if I want to get in on the pre-order bandwagon before the first round is sold out. As someone who loves technology, the thought of VR and MR is exciting as hell. From a practical standpoint, though, I’m not entirely sure that it’s worthwhile, and that bothers me. No, I’m not looking for something to throw money at, but I also don’t want to see a technology dismissed — again — prematurely. I want VR to do well, and I feel that supporting it when it needs it the most is a good way to show that, but I also have enough pricey tech gathering dust and I don’t need to add to that pile.