2016 is the year of Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality has been a bone of contention for decades. The technology had never been able to catch up with expectations or imagination… until now.

There have been many films depicting the virtual reality world from Tron in the early 1980s to Lawnmower Man and even The Matrix, but nothing has come close to what Hollywood has been able to show us.

This month saw the launch (or at least the pre-order launch) of the Oculus Rift. After a Kickstarter campaign and years of development, we can now get our hands on one of the most talked about and most wanted headset’s ever. Unfortunately the heavy price tag of $600 is putting a lot of people off, especially as Oculus VR Founder Palmer Luckey had previously announced the price would be in the $350 ballpark. After an outcry on social media, Luckey took to reddit to apologise to the disgruntled masses, saying he “handled the messaging poorly”.

The Oculus is not a standalone system. Owners will also need a high-end spec PC to be able to run the headset. (Adding to the cost if your PC is more than a few years old.) It does come with two games though, EVE: Valkyrie (a space shoot-em-up) and Lucky’s Tale (a platform which looks like a cross between Sonic and Mario.)

If $600 would completely cripple your bank account, there are cheaper VR options available. Oculus has also teamed up with Samsung to bring us the Gear VR. Unlike the Rift, this is a VR shell for your Samsung phone to sit in. It’s a lot more affordable at just $99, but if you look online, there are many similar versions available for all phones at a fraction of the cost. That’s not to say they are as good as the Gear VR, but if you’re on a tight budget, these can help transport you into a virtual world.

And let’s not forget Google Cardboard which is possibly the cheapest of all the devices and still extremely effective.

Hot on the heels of Oculus are Sony PlayStation. Their headset which works exclusively with the PS4 looks impressive; we especially like the flashing LED blue lights. While immersed, the user can control their actions with either the PS4 pad or move controllers.

Sony has 20 years of gaming experience and we expect some amazing titles to soon be available for their VR headset.

Another huge contender for this year’s VR dominance comes from an unlikely source: HTC. The Android phone makers have produced their own headset, the HTC Vive.

As much as we like all of these systems and how technologically advanced they all are, they still remind us of the View-Masters we had as kids.

The big problem with VR is our movement when immersed in the world. With the headset on you can’t see that chair, coffee table or cat until it shrieks and runs away.  HTC has fixed this problem with a front-facing camera which can sense walls and furniture and show you outside the helmet while you’re in the world. This is a step up from the others and means the cat would be safe from your precarious stomping around the living room.

When it comes to gaming, HTC has that covered too. Teaming up with Valve to produce the headset has also opened a mass library of games from the Steam Network. None of them are live yet, but just check out the pre-release list here.

There are currently no release dates for either the PlayStation VR or the HTC Vive, but it’s likely both will be announced next month and try to take some of the Oculus Rift pre-orders before its release in March.

The VR wars have begun!

As much as we like all of these systems and how technologically advanced they all are, they still remind us of the View-Masters we had as kids.