While the Oculus Rift is making a splash with its big price and Facebook backing, it’s not the only VR headset around. Spearheaded by gaming company Razer and VR developer Sensics, Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) has been building steam, bringing on a ton of partners that include big names like Intel, Visionics, Unigine, and Leap Motion.
The open source platform means any brand can produce hardware and software, and all of the schematics and source code is available freely. But there still has to be a physical headset, and that headset is the OSVR Hacker Dev Kit. The $300 headset boasts a 1080p OLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate, IR faceplate, a camera for position tracking, and the inherent ability to swap out or upgrade everything from the screen to the sensor module.
The OSVR feels cohesive and sturdy, with individual eye focus controls that allow for fine tuning and perfect focus. Some headsets, like the Rift and Vive, have moved towards a triangular band that sits on the crown of your head. The HDK opts for the more typical setup, like a sweatband with a mohawk. It doesn’t sit as snugly as the triangular option, but you won’t find the headset uncomfortable or heavy as a result.
The OSVR has one feature that is catching the most attention. Other VR headsets often suffer from the screen-door effect, meaning you can see a grid of lines between individual pixels. It’s caused by the fact that the screen is just an inch or two from your face. The OSVR HDK solves it by using screen-level diffusion and refined optics. The result is a clear picture, snappy response times, and no screen door to speak of.
While the HDK has the basic features of systems like the Rift, its modular, open-source design opens up a treasure trove of possibility. There’s already support for Leap Motion hand and gesture tracking with a swappable faceplate, and that’s just the start. There’s talk of eye tracking, positional tracking room, Android and Mac OS X support, and a big one – wireless streaming. Cutting the cord to VR headsets is a goal that will improve the user experience greatly, and the tech is already working as a proof of concept with the HDK.
On the flip side, the OSVR HDK asks the user to take on more responsibility in exchange for those perks. For example, the Rift’s minimum system requirements are quite a bit more demanding than the OSVR, because Oculus wants everyone who buys one to be able to play everything available for the platform. OSVR doesn’t have the same stringent requirements, because most PC gamers, enjoy customizing their own style. Unlike a console, not every PC is capable of running every game, and each user will have to tweak settings to achieve smooth gameplay.
Gamers Will Enjoy!
The OSVR is the answer for PC gamers who don’t have an infinite pocket for the 600.00 Rift. They still want the VR experience and want to enjoy the equipment that comes with that experience.
The downside is that it isn’t as simple as the Rift. It’s not a plug and play device, and there’s no “OSVR Certified” program to ensure it will run with certain systems. There will always be tweaking and tuning to do. But that’s nothing new for PC gamers, who have always had to be resourceful in order for their gaming experience to be as smooth as possble.