The quest to put humans into virtual reality (VR) environments has a much longer history than one might expect. The first thoughts that people could interact in virtual realities arose in 1935 when American science fiction writer Stanley Weinbaum wrote his short story “Pygmalion’s Spectacles.” In this story, a man dons a head-mounted display (HMD) and begins interacting with a virtual world. But the work that directly led to the Oculus
and HTC VR
products began much more recently. In 2010, 18-year-old entrepreneur, Palmer Luckey, created a prototype of the first Oculus Rift headset. In 2012 Luckey raised $2.4 million on Kickstarter, followed by Facebook buying Oculus for $2 billion in 2014
Oculus Quest 2
Today, the Rift and earlier Oculus models have been replaced with the Oculus Quest 2
. Unlike its predecessors that had to be connected with a long cable to a heavy-duty PC, no PC is needed to enjoy VR with the Quest 2. However, the Quest 2 still has a connector to hook up a PC if you need extra graphic processing power for particular games or VR adventures.
Facebook, the owner of Oculus, views the Quest 2 as a headset you can use anywhere, but that you can still link to a PC to play games that require more powerful hardware. In an apparent attempt to gather more Facebook users, the Oculus Quest 2 won’t run unless you have a Facebook account. On the surface, it surface seems to be an arbitrary requirement, but one that may turn some potential customers away.
- Price: The Quest 2 is available in two models. The entry-level comes with 64GB storage, while a second model has 256GB. Pricing is $299 and $399, respectively, which, considering the $399 price tag on previous Oculus entry-level models, is great news for VR fans.
- CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2, an important improvement over the Snapdragon 835 used in earlier Oculus models.
- RAM: 6GB, compared to 4GB previously
- Resolution: 1832 x 1920 per eye
- Refresh rate: 90 Hz, which gives a smooth experience as you pan across a scene.
HTC Vive Cosmos
The Vive Cosmos
, from Taiwanese electronics company HTC, is the company’s latest offering in the VR space. Unlike its competitor, the Vive Cosmos does require a cabled connection to a PC, which many VR fans find limiting despite the 15-foot cable length.
Speaking of the PC needed to drive the Vive Cosmos, it should use at least an Intel Core i5-4590 (or AMD FX 8350). Minimum requirements call for 8GB RAM, USB 3.0, a DisplayPort 1.2 connection, and a Nvidia GTX 1070 or Radeon Vega 56 graphics processing unit.
VR pundits generally agree the Vive Cosmos delivers one of the best VR experiences
available anywhere in the market. However, the clunky 15-foot cord and the $699 price tag have discouraged many would-be first-timers from this otherwise superior model.
- Price: $699
- CPU: Uses CPU in your PC; see minimums listed above.
- RAM: Requires 8GB minimum in your PC.
- Resolution: 1440 x 1700
- Refresh Rate: 90 Hz
Protecting Your VR System
Like any expensive electronic device, VR head-mounted displays are subject to failure. In fact, with all the gestures, body movement, and action inherent in most VR games, physical damage from contact between the HMD and walls, doors, and furniture increases considerably. Sadly, manufacturer warranties don’t cover accidental damage; they limit their coverage to defects in materials and workmanship.
, on the other hand, offers 2- and 3-year extended warranties on VR gear
. They cover accidents and an entire range of failures including drops, liquid damage, mechanical failure, speaker/sound failure, power failure, hard drive failure, and Wi-Fi failure. Check out Upsie’s VR page and grab a 10 percent discount to get started. You’ll note, for example, that the Oculus Quest 2 extended warranty for two years is only $34.42 – about 33¢ per week. Then, once coverage is in place, you pay only $25 for any covered repair.
Be sure to contact Upsie
with any questions or to get started protecting your VR gear. Notice that you can get an extended warranty any time within the first 60 days after buying your system.
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