Headsets for Augmented and Virtual Reality
Technology is the prerequisite, content is the key to the success of mixed reality solutions.
The technical development of Virtual Reality actually began 50 years ago, yet it’s only in this decade that progress in display and GPU technology is making a breakthrough. The latest generation are Microsoft Mixed Reality Headsets, some of which are already available, some of which will hit the market in early 2018. HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have been on the market as VR glasses since 2016. Also, a pure gaming VR headset for the Sony PlayStation is currently on the market.
In the field of augmented reality, apart from various AR solutions based on smartphones, the Microsoft HoloLens is the only Headset on the market as a self-sufficient AR headset. These headsets are defined as Microsoft Mixed Reality (MR).
The common feature of these headsets is their ability to locate the position of the headset in space, and thus that of the user’s head. If one moves physically in space, the perceived image in the MR headset reacts: one can walk around objects and look at them from all sides. This is not possible with VR solutions based on mobile phones (Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream, etc.). On the other hand, if I use the mobile phone as an AR device (the built-in camera lets me display the surroundings and add virtual elements to this picture), solutions such as the Apple ARKit or Google Tango also provide orientation in space. But not as a headset solution …
Tracking means: being able to determine the position of a point / headset / object / person in the room at any time. Tracking is used in different places and you can see the results on TV every day: For example, virtual TV studios could not work without accurate camera tracking.
Without going into too much technical detail, the MR headset’s tracking methods can be separated into two camps:
- Inside-out tracking
The MR Headset works with built-in sensors / cameras and orientates itself without external “help” alone in the room. So, you’re tracking from the inside to the outside: inside-out tracking. This has the advantage that the structure is very simple: the device works independently. The Windows Mixed Reality Headsets and the Microsoft HoloLens work according to this principle.
- Outside-in tracking
The MR Headset works with external sensors / cameras and orientates itself with their “help” alone in the room. You track as from the outside to the inside: Outside-in tracking. The setup also requires external hardware: Sony PlayStation Camera for PlayStation VR, the lighthouses for HTC Vive or the tracking sensors for Oculus Rift.
Microsoft Mixed Reality Headsets
The Microsoft Mixed Reality Headsets are affordable in price and easy to handle due to the integrated inside-out tracking.
These Windows MR headsets have a resolution of 2880 x 1440 pixels (90Hz) with two LCD displays with a field of view of up to 105°.
Samsung’s Odyssey is the better exception: It has two 3.5-inch AMOLED panels with 1,440 x 1,600 pixels used in a field of view of up to 110°.
Popular and proven virtual reality headsets
The Oculus Rift pioneered the new virtual reality movement and is firmly established in the market. In addition, the HTC Vive with slightly better specifications and greater flexibility also has a high market share and is probably the most popular VR headset at the moment. Outside-in-tracking requires that both systems have external hardware for position detection in space.
Mobile solutions based on smartphones are dominating the market in the area of augmented reality, but only in the sense of an augmentation on the smartphone display. The Apple ARKit or Google Tango are two available platforms. One needs a headset for an immersive experience: There is currently no way around the Microsoft HoloLens as an AR Headset. Since all the technology is in the headset, HoloLens with its inside-out tracking is completely self-contained and therefore the most advanced MR headset on the market.