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Article: Market Overview of Virtual Reality Glasses: Comparison of Systems & Offers

Market Overview of Virtual Reality Glasses: Comparison of Systems & Offers

1. Smartphone in VR headset

The most cost-effective category is probably the headsets that require a smartphone. These solutions consist of a holder for the mobile phone, lenses and a construction that allows all of this to be worn in front of the eyes. The best-known examples are the Google Cardboard, which even tinkerers can make themselves, and Gear VR, which is designed for Samsung smartphones.

The quality of the VR experience depends largely on the smartphone used. After all, in this case it is primarily responsible for tracking the head movements as well as for the calculations and display of the 360-degree content. The actual frame usually does without technology, apart from Samsung's Gear VR, which has an in-built controller and additional sensors. This is intended to improve the VR experience.

The advantage here: Aside from a smartphone (preferably a good one), a pair of cardboard goggles for as little as $10 is all you need to get started with VR. It really doesn't get much cheaper than that.

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2. VR glasses for computers and consoles

VR goggles that require a high-end computer or at least a games console are much more complex. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the most prominent representatives in this area. They consist of high-resolution displays, complex sensor technology, and a cable connection to the PC, which carries out the calculations and brings content directly to the screens in front of your eyes. Sony's PlayStation VR is similar in nature, requiring a PlayStation 4 rather than a high-priced computer.

Thanks to additional cameras and possibly even sensors placed in the environment, it is not only possible to precisely perceive your own head movements, but also to recognize your position in the room and track your hands. This allows for more complex VR applications outside of games. In the best-case scenario, it is already about simulating complete worlds in which you orientate yourself.

Apart from PlayStation VR perhaps, which is explicitly aimed at gamers and the mass market, professional VR glasses are more likely to be used by hardcore gamers, enthusiasts, developers, and in the B2B/B2C sector due to their relatively high prices. Explore more about these technologies and experiences at

3. Standalone devices

And then there are the VR headsets, which will be of greater importance in the future: These complete solutions do not require a smartphone or computer, as users wear everything they need to visit VR worlds on their heads. Various manufacturers are working diligently on concepts, including Facebook subsidiary Oculus VR with the Oculus Rift "Santa Cruz". Many challenges await the manufacturers here, as powerful hardware is required for such solutions, for which we will certainly have to be patient.

How good are the devices at the moment?

In the present, countless limitations continue to dominate, but they are no longer so dominant that they prevent a positive VR feeling from arising in the first place. Compared to the earlier attempts in the 1990s, we have long since reached a point where the degree of immersion is convincing. Current VR goggles have a field of view of around 100 degrees, which may not seem much compared to the 270 degrees of the human eye, but it does create a perspective that allows you to look around freely, similar to through ski goggles. Modern screens ensure good visualisation. While displays with resolutions of 263 x 230 pixels were still used in the Forte VFX1 in 1994, today the values are already 2160 x 1200 pixels (Oculus Rift), for example. High refresh rates of 90 Hz and more as well as an extremely low latency of less than 20 ms prevent nausea during movements. This is because the time between input such as a head movement and the reaction of the software should be as short as possible to avoid the phenomenon of "motion sickness" or travel sickness.

Fact: With the right software and hardware (smartphone, PC, PS4), the available products already offer everything you need for an impressive VR experience. But what can already be purchased or will be released in the coming months? Let's take a closer look at a few representatives:

Google Cardboard & spin-offs

As mentioned at the beginning: Google's first VR outing is undoubtedly the least expensive. If you have a current smartphone, preferably with an Android operating system, you can build your own cardboard glasses based on Google's template or choose one of the countless commercial variants. Even high-end models such as the VR One Plus from Zeiss are available, albeit at prices of around 100 dollars. Is that necessary? Not necessarily, because ultimately it depends on the quality of the lenses and the smartphone.

You should also be aware of this: Google Cardboard is the simplest way to try out VR. Only the head movements (up, down, left, right) are taken into account, even the controls or other forms of interaction are sometimes omitted. But: Cardboard clearly shows its potential - even if it's only when you visit an underwater aquarium or ride a rollercoaster. Anyone who tries it out will quickly get a feel for virtual reality and may want more.

Samsung Gear VR

"More than Cardboard" is a pretty good description of Samsung's Gear VR. Together with the company Oculus VR, an attractive platform has been created that makes virtual reality a beginner-friendly and highly functional leisure activity. The glasses attachment is only suitable for the current Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7 models as well as the Galaxy Note 5. Additional sensors and a touchpad are included. This enables simple operation in applications.

What's particularly nice about Gear VR: plug in your smartphone, put on the glasses and the Oculus service belonging to Gear VR starts up, promising a quick selection of favourite content. Thanks to a special app store, VR programmes can be conveniently purchased and downloaded. This is an all-round coherent system, which is limited for technical reasons: here too, only head movements are taken into account - but at least they are precise and fast. Orientation in space is not possible.

Google Daydream View

In a way, Daydream View could be seen as the successor to Cardboard, which has also learnt a few things from Gear VR. Provided you have a suitably up-to-date smartphone, such as the Google Pixel or Pixel XL, this very stylish peripheral aims to provide intuitive enjoyment: Insert your phone and off you go with gaming and entertainment. Extremely lightweight and equipped with a small controller in the style of a remote control, VR is set to become a lifestyle product - and at a low price of around 70 dollars (including controller for inputs, also using motion sensors). Practical: A dedicated interface guarantees convenient use. Thanks to compatibility with Cardboard, there is already a huge selection of VR and 360-degree content, including videos from YouTube and Google Street View.

The problem with Daydream View is that the number of supported smartphones is small, as it requires very powerful hardware and Google's Android version 7. And at the moment (end of 2016), very few phones on the market have this.

Xiaomi and LG cook their own soup

The Xiaomi Mi VR and LG 360 VR also fall into the category of VR glasses for smartphones. Both manufacturers offer their own products, as do other companies. They also require very specific phones; LG's VR solution even needs to be connected to a mobile phone via a cable. However, with an 80-degree viewing angle and tiny displays with low resolutions of 960 x 720 pixels, nobody should expect miracles here.

In general, numerous companies are trying to enter the smartphone glasses sector. However, only Google with Daydream and Cardboard provides anything like a uniform standard. Thanks to firm integration into the operating system, this will presumably also become established.

PlayStation VR

Sony deserves great respect. The Japanese company is one of the first big players to offer a peripheral that is both affordable and of a convincing quality. Apart perhaps from the headphones supplied, the well-designed glasses with their 5.7-inch RGB OLED display (1920 x 1080 pixels) are very appealing. Thanks to a specially designed technology, the otherwise quite conspicuous fly screen pattern, which is noticeable on the majority of current VR headsets when viewing content, disappears almost completely. Frame rates of up to 120 Hz, a 100-degree field of view and optimum integration into the PlayStation 4 microcosm - this will make gamers' hearts beat faster. And for 400 dollars (plus PlayStation 4 and accessories), they get an amazingly affordable introduction to VR.

PlayStation VR does have a few "teething problems" such as the not always precise tracking by the PlayStation Camera and the LEDs attached to the glasses. The cable is also a moderate disaster, especially for casual gamers in the living room. And yet Sony was the first console manufacturer to jump on the bandwagon and deliver a good package for gaming and fun.

Will PlayStation VR just serve a trend or will it be relevant in the long term? That is still difficult to say.

What's next?

Is that the end of VR glasses? Certainly not. Many more are on the market and in local (online) shops or will appear in the coming months. Various headsets are based on current and future standards, and newcomers are sure to present their ideas in 2017. Project Alloy, Hololens and the like should of course not be forgotten, as virtual reality could just be the entry point that paves the way for augmented reality and mixed reality. A coexistence of these "realities" is also conceivable.

The fact is: technical development is (fortunately) unstoppable. External sensors will disappear and be replaced by inside-out sensors and depth cameras. Eye tracking increases the efficiency of virtual reality programme calculations, which reduces the load on the necessary hardware. In turn, CPUs and GPUs are becoming smaller, more energy-efficient and more powerful. This in turn paves the way for wireless VR headsets and the potential to feed content to even higher-resolution displays with larger fields of view and lower latency. New wireless standards such as Wigig could mean that content can be streamed directly to glasses. That alone would be a major step forward.

However, the latest VR goggles can already bring joy, provided you are prepared to make (technical) compromises. It will probably be years before the perfect holodeck-style experience is realised and there will certainly be a few trends that come and go. Perhaps VR concepts will revitalise the classic arcade? This segment in particular is increasingly seen as a great opportunity for VR worldwide. Providers such as Modal VR, VRcade, Zero Latency, The Void or even the HolocafĂ© from DĂŒsseldorf show where the journey can take us. Will interim solutions such as backpack PCs for VR (XMG Walker and co.), strange controllers such as Wolverine VR and the Virtuix Omni treadmill be able to establish themselves? It's hard to imagine. But these visions are also part of the process of moving virtual reality forward, improving it and intensifying the experience for users. The still young market is and will remain on the move. What will it look like in a year's time?

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