The 9 Best Mobile VR Headsets
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. There is an ideal mobile VR headset for every type of phone. Some are better suited for movie watching while others have been optimized for gaming. We've sifted through hundreds of models, most of which are just plastic versions of Google's Cardboard, and pulled out the only ones that really matter. It's time to choose one and jump into new lifelike worlds that will blow your mind. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best mobile vr headset on Amazon.
A Brief History Of Mobile VR Headsets
An open standard, Google Cardboard made virtual reality accessible at a far more affordable price than before.
As smartphone computing power increased and display quality improved, mobile VR headsets grew in popularity.
Virtual reality is difficult to define, and for that reason its origins are disputed.
Something close to what we regard today as VR was outlined in Stanley G. Weinbaum's 1935 short story Pygmalion's Spectacles. Weinbaum described a set of goggles that made and replayed holographic recordings of fictional experiences.
The earliest real-world example of a VR predecessor was the Sensorama, built in 1962. This mechanical device offered a seated user what its creator called "experience theater." The Sensorama presented users with a series of short films, and appropriately timed sensory elements -- including scents.
The first true head-mounted display arrived in 1968, when American computer scientist Ivan Sutherland suspended computer screens from the ceiling. Only capable of displaying primitive wire-frame models, Sutherland's creation lacked realism and an effective user interface.
The term virtual reality was popularized by computer philosophy writer Jaron Lanier, and by the 1980s it assumed a prominent place in American culture thanks to films like 1982's Tron. While it was a subject of fascination in 1980s art and films, VR was, for the most part, available only for medical and military training, automobile and airframe design, and flight simulation.
After years of research in college science laboratories, the first major VR consumer product was announced by Sega in 1991. The Sega VR headset, which consisted of a visor containing multiple LCD screens, stereo headphones, and inertial sensors, could be used to play arcade games and alongside the Mega Drive gaming console. The Sega VR project was canceled before release because its users suffered motion sickness and headaches, according to CEO Tom Kalinske.
Later in 1991, the first mass-produced VR entertainment system, known as Virtuality, was released. This multiplayer system, which boasted headsets and interactive gloves, was pricey, costing as much as $73,000 per installation. This expense limited the products' reach to arcades and malls.
Nintendo's foray into VR, the Virtual Boy, rolled out in 1995. Employing stereoscopic 3D graphics, this device sold a mere 770,000 units worldwide, and was panned for its high price, monochrome display, and lack of immersion.
Attempts at similar consumer VR devices also failed, and by the early 2000s interest in VR was on the decline. It wasn't until Oculus founder Palmer Luckey designed and demonstrated the first Oculus Rift in 2010 that consumer interest in virtual reality was renewed. Luckey's Rift prototype featured a previously-unheard-of 90-degree field of view.
Games maker Valve entered the VR space in 2013, publicly sharing their low-persistence display technology, which would become the standard upon which later head-mounted displays were based.
The Oculus Rift received millions of dollars in public support via Kickstarter, and in 2014 the promising company was purchased by Facebook for $2 billion.
By the time the first Oculus Rift was released in March 2016, competing headsets by Sony, Microsoft, HTC, and a number of other manufacturers were either announced or released. The Rift's chief competitor was the HTC Vive, which, like the Rift, relied on powerful consumer PCs to run its virtual reality experience.
As smartphone computing power increased and display quality improved, mobile VR headsets grew in popularity. One of the earliest headsets, which made use of the consumer's own phone, was Google Cardboard. An open standard, Google Cardboard made virtual reality accessible at a far more affordable price than before.
Know The Difference Between VR And AR
Today, there are two technologies competing for your reality-distorting dollar: virtual reality and augmented reality.
Virtual reality employs either video or computer generated graphics to transport users to another place. VR users wear a closed, head-mounted display that completely blocks out the world.
Traditional headsets have their own displays, and rely on computers and gaming consoles for computing muscle.
Popular head-mounted displays can be either traditional or mobile. Mobile VR headsets often make use of a phone or other portable device to provide a display and the computer power needed to render the VR world. Traditional headsets have their own displays, and rely on computers and gaming consoles for computing muscle. Applications designed for mobile headsets are typically less graphics-intensive than those designed for traditional headsets, due to the limitations of mobile computing.
Instead of sending you to another place, augmented reality projects virtual objects and information into the world around you. These projections can include real-life items, like furniture you're interested in purchasing, or fantasy creatures as part of a gaming experience. Today, augmented reality is mostly available via smartphones.
Overcoming Motion Sickness
For some, even the highest of high-end virtual reality experiences can cause motion sickness.
If you're among the sufferers, take note of these steps which may limit or prevent VR-induced nausea.
It's also wise to keep air stirring in the room where you're using VR.
First, remember to start with mild virtual reality experiences. Today most VR applications are rated based on their intensity with respect to motion sensitivity. By starting with milder experiences, and progressively increasing the intensity, you may build a tolerance to VR's effects. Similarly, you may start with brief VR sessions, and work your way up to longer sessions as you learn to tolerate them.
It's also wise to keep air stirring in the room where you're using VR. Little is worse for motion sickness than warm, stale air.
It's also potentially helpful to have someone nearby to reassure you while you're engaging in VR activities, according to a study done on seasick Navy cadets. Those cadets who received verbal support from others got sick at a lower rate than their counterparts.
If all else fails, consult your doctor about trying one of the many available motion sickness remedies. Because VR sickness, like motion sickness, is caused by a disturbance of the inner ear, motion sickness medication should be similarly efficacious in instances of VR sickness.
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