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How to choose the best VR headset for you (continued)
What’s the difference between virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality?
If you’re a newcomer to VR, you will probably have seen or heard the phrases above. But what exactly do they mean?
Virtual reality: Peering into a specially designed pair of goggles that display a 3D CGI environment that you can interact with using wand-like controllers (or in some cases, your hands).
Augmented reality: Layering computer-generated graphics on top of real-world image capturing technology. If you’ve ever played Pokemon Go, you’ve experienced augmented reality (through the lens of your smartphone).
Mixed reality: A combination of VR and AR. Mixed reality takes the concept of AR – layering CGI over the real world – and improves upon it by enabling more complex interactions between the virtual and the real.
Confused? Don’t be. Every product on our list is a good old-fashioned virtual reality headset. You’ll find that headsets with the “Windows Mixed Reality” label have been discontinued – but if you do happen across one that’s available to buy, know that it’s just a VR headset with support for Microsoft’s own VR software.
What about the rest of the jargon?
HMD: Head-Mounted Display – The catch-all term for the VR headset itself, excluding any peripherals.
Base stations: Small-ish sensors that track the movement of both the HMD and the motion controllers. Some VR headsets require you to set up a few base stations around the room you intend to play in.
Inside-out tracking: Rather than using base stations, it’s becoming more common these days for VR headsets to be dotted with cameras that track your movement, and the movement of your controllers. This is called inside-out tracking, and it’s really great: base stations are space-consuming and a pain to set up.
IPD slider: Inter-Pupillary Distance slider – a physical or virtual slider that allows you to widen or shrink the gap between the two lenses inside the HMD. After all, some of us have bigger heads or wider-set eyes than others.
Sweet spot: The area right in the centre of the lens that affords the clearest view of the display itself. The larger the sweet spot, the better.
Screen-door effect: This is when you can see the individual pixels of your headset’s display, arranged in a grid that overlays the image. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of the current limitations of VR technology; the higher the resolution of the display, the less visible the screen-door effect is.
What on earth is the metaverse?
When Facebook announced that it would be rebranding to “Meta”, it also revealed that it would be expanding into something called the metaverse in a major way. In the accompanying Tweet, Facebook-now-Meta described the metaverse in the most understandable manner we could find: “a place where we’ll play and connect in 3D”.
At its core, that’s all the metaverse is: any collaborative virtual environment accessed via a VR headset like the Oculus/Meta Quest 2. Applications that fall under the metaverse umbrella have actually been around for a while now: VRChat and Rec Room allow users to don a headset, create an avatar and jump into a virtual world shared by others where they can play games, hang out or just sit and marvel at the scenery.
Follow this particular thread to its destination and you might imagine something like Ready Player One, where the metaverse is a thriving world complete with a functioning economy and social classes. While it’s true that several companies are buying up virtual real estate in the metaverse, however, we’re a little way off the dystopian future Cline imagines in his novel.
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