Now’s the time to go VR
The VRKiX virtual reality headset
Virtual reality at its fullest requires sophisticated computers, advanced software, wrap-around stereo headsets and data gloves with built-in sensors. Fully decked out, you’re immersed in an environment that feels as authentic as the real world. You’re doubtless familiar with the medical applications of virtual reality particularly in surgery and telemedicine. (For more, read “Virtual reality comes to medicine,” page 19).
On the other hand, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. In 2014, Google developed an inexpensive head-mounted viewer that uses a smartphone to create virtual reality. Two screens display slightly different, stereoscopic images to create a realistic 3D perspective of the virtual world. The cardboard viewer consists of a couple of lenses with a simple magnetic metal ring on the side that serves as a “click.” All the heavy lifting is done by the smartphone’s accelerometer and gyro.
Once you’ve got the hardware, you need an app that will split the display image into two, one for each eye, and applies barrel distortion to each image to counter the pincushion distortion from the lenses. Hundreds of VR apps are available from the Apple apps store and Google Play including but not limited to games, travel, education, real estate and more. Even better, Netflix, YouTube and others offer VR movies. Download a VR app, fire it up, place your smartphone in the viewer, strap it on and you’re instantly immersed in wide-screen “reality.” Moving your head tracks a 360-degree view.
Choosing the right model headset is a challenge. The device is new enough that despite thousands of independent reviews, reactions to any given model remain mixed.
A homegrown company offers the VRKiX Virtual Reality Headset which has a number of attractive features including a spring-loaded tray to hold your smartphone; compatibility with most iPhone and Samsung models (check the website for phone fit); adjustable lenses; comfortable head-straps, and front and side ventilation (it can get hot in there!).
If this is your first VR experience consider starting with the inexpensive widely available Google Cardboard ($20) and moving up from there.
The VRKiX Virtual Reality Headset is available at Canada Computers, Staples and other retailers. Alternatively, you can purchase it online at vrkix.ca. $69.99.
Win this VR headset by entering the Win the Gadget of the Month contest here.
This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.