First Click: Which VR headset will embarrass you most in 20 years?

January 29th, 2016

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Answer: All of them.

I'm guessing that like me, you're probably thinking of buying a VR headset this year? That’s what early adopters do. We can’t help it. I’m also prepared to look back and laugh at 2016 photos of myself as the technology matures.

Hell, by 2050, the year when every futuristic fantasy comes true, augmenting the human body with VR could be as simple as putting on a pair of contact lenses. The VR goggles of today will be no different than those giant brick phones of yore.

The image on the right comes courtesy of Samsung, which used it to proclaim its Gear VR as a "natural fit" for restaurants because that looks totally natural. Nevertheless, some of us will be that guy, just as Adi Robertson was that girl when she took her Galaxy Gear VR out into the subways, parks, taxis, and cafes of the real world.

Question is: which VR headset will you eventually be embarrassed by after you buy it this year? It’s true we don’t have a complete picture yet. But we know that in 2016, the top-of-the-line consumer VR experiences will come from the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and Sony’s PlayStation VR.

Only the Oculus Rift has been priced so far: $599, plus a fairly robust PC if you don’t already own one. PlayStation VR will likely be the cheapest, while the Vive will probably be the most expensive (and most capable) VR headset out of the box.

Oculus bundles an Oculus Remote and an Xbox One controller with every Rift purchased — the two Touch controllers can be purchased separately later this year. The Oculus Rift will also be the first available with preorders already open ahead of the March 28th ship date.

The consumer version of the HTC Vive will likely include a front-facing camera that can be activated to show the real world, and ship with two small base stations that track your movements in "room-scale VR" (using HTC’s words). Like Oculus, Vive requires a beefy PC. Unlike Oculus, HTC plans to bundle two Vive controllers with the headset. Vive preorders will open February 29th before shipping in April.

The PlayStation VR is the biggest wildcard. We only know that it’s planned for the first half of 2016 and requires a PlayStation 4 (and a box from Sony that upscales its capability for the PSVR), a PlayStation Camera, and DualShock 4 or PlayStation Move controllers. We expect to learn more at GDC in mid-March.

On the content side, Oculus has thus far plugged a ton of games, Sony has promise, and Vive is being coy.

Or maybe your decision will come down to simple aesthetics. As Adi notes, the Vive "looks like a pair of Crocs for your face." Although none of them look natural.

So, knowing what you know today, which VR headset do you think you’ll buy?

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