I’ve got a couple different VR setups at home and I’ve been really impressed with both of them. The Vive
I don’t know how to pronounce it but I know I like it. In terms of setup this one required the most work. I was able to clear some space in my garage and ended up with a play space very near the maximum size allowed. Setting up the sensors was surprisingly easy and the rest of the hardware is pretty much ready to go right out of the box. I’m running all of it off my 14” Razor Blade and I’ve been pretty impressed with the results. For a lot of the smaller games and demos I played before release the Razor did an admirable job. Now that I’m digging into some more robust experiences I’m starting to wish I had a more beefy rig out there.
If you have enough room to stretch out your arms and turn around you can have a really good time with your VIVE. Obviously the more room you have the better though and the room scale experiences are really where the VIVE shines. Unseen Diplomacy is one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in VR and a huge part of that is the ability to move around in that virtual space. I found myself ducking my head as I walked through doors and holding my breath as I shimmied across narrow ledges. Getting down on my hands and knees to crawl under lasers was such a blast I completely forgot I was actually just rolling around on the floor of my garage.
The biggest problem I have with the VIVE is really the cable. Spinning all around is cool but I’m constantly having to untangle myself from the cable. When a pretend door shuts behind me I worry that the cord is stuck. I “feel” like I am dragging this bundle of cables through the dungeon in Vanishing Realms and it sucks. My Dad is a handy guy and is working on installing some hardware that should hold the cable up out of the way while you play. So far his design involves sailboat pulleys and fishing weights but it looks like it might just work!
The Gear VR
I made the switch from iPhone to Android last month and when I did I picked up the new Galaxy S7. I was able to get the Gear VR for free with my phone and I’ve been playing with it for about a week now. The Thing that makes the Gear VR so cool is the ease of use. I said that setting up the VIVE was simple but it sure as shit wasn’t as simple as putting my phone on my head. Out in the garage I can feel my crazy powerful gaming laptop struggling to keep up with what the VIVE is asking it to do. With the Gear I am just constantly amazed at what my phone is capable of. Maybe that’s what makes it so impressive. With just my phone and a plastic headset I am able to have experiences comparable to a lot of the stuff I’ve played on the VIVE and better in some cases.
I’ve played fishing games, platform games, puzzle games and even watched the Martian in a theatre on the moon. If you want to talk about bang for your buck it’s hard not to recommend the Gear VR. I’m also really interested in testing this setup on an airplane. I’ll be flying to Disneyland next week and I intend to bring my Gear VR along for the ride. I’ve read some mixed reviews about how well it functions on planes but I figure I’ll test it out for myself. In general though I’d say the portability of the device is another selling point.
If you have the space for it, the VIVE really is impressive. Playing Vanishing Realms last night, I finally felt like the promise of VR had been delivered. If I was going to go back in time to 1990 and show a young me what VR would look like in 2016, I’d show him the VIVE no question. But when I think about which one gets more use at my house it’s the Gear VR for sure.