Digital Media Academy

VR with new headphones

New Headsets Promise to Make VR More Accessible

The Oculus Quest promises to offer high-quality VR experiences without expensive PCs or bulky sensors.

Virtual Reality has had its ups and downs over the past few years, with many people criticizing the high price-tag and inconvenient hardware requirements of high-quality headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Newly announced headsets hope to address this issue and promise to deliver a cheaper, more portable, and higher-quality VR experience.

One of the biggest factors that influence the quality of a VR headset is how many Degrees of Freedom (DOF) it has. The maximum possible DOF for any VR headset is 6 – 3 degrees of freedom for rotation (turning your head or hands), and 3 for translation (moving your head or hands forwards, backwards, up or down).

The Google Cardboard, and any other VR headset that runs off of a mobile phone, is 3DOF. This basically means that all they can detect is head rotation, but not movement. So you can use 3DOF VR to look around at a cool underwater world or to play a game without real-world movement, but you won’t be able to take a step forward to inspect an object or duck to avoid a projectile.

Developing for Google Cardboard is a great first tool to learn how VR worlds work. However, higher-end headsets offer 6DOF experiences, which are much more immersive. In these experiences, your head movement is completely tracked, and you can walk around the room, really becoming immersed in the virtual world. Something like Google’s Tile Brush, a VR painting app, only works with 6DOF headsets.

Tilt Brush is an example of an app that can only work with 6DOF headsets. Source: Google

The problem with 6DOF headsets is that they require external sensors and need to be plugged into an expensive gaming PC to work. This takes a lot of time to set up, is not at all portable, and is too expensive for someone just starting out in VR development.

But this issue may be solved by the newly announced Oculus Quest, which is said to be capable of offering high-quality 6DOF VR experiences, without the need for an expensive PC or bulky sensors. These headsets could make it much easier to share VR with friends, and to show people what high-immersion VR looks like, without lugging around a massive computer and extra equipment!