Are you considering giving your family a virtual reality experience this holiday season? Unsure of how to begin? No need to fret.
This guide will assist you in determining the best choice for your family’s preferences, requirements, and financial situation, ranging from Google’s affordable Cardboard VR viewer to Sony’s latest PlayStation VR. Whether you are looking to test the waters, go deeper, or fully dive into the world of VR, here are the available options.
Please remember that virtual reality is a rapidly evolving technology, so be sure to visit the companies’ websites, read professional reviews on sites like CNET, and check out user reviews before making a decision.
Virtual reality headsets: Ideal for families with young children.
Virtual reality viewers are affordable, portable gadgets that provide 3D visuals and the sensation of being in a different location. The lenses in the viewers function by enhancing the depth of still images or animations, but do not permit interaction with the surroundings. To utilize them, simply download a “VR” labeled app from either iTunes or Google Play, open the app, and insert your smartphone into the viewer. The majority of viewers utilize a basic input, such as a phone button, to control the actions.
• This product is suitable for use with the majority of smartphones and applications on both iOS and Android systems that are labeled as “VR,” with the exception of the View-Master which requires the use of specific apps.
This experience is more reminiscent of a 3D movie rather than true virtual reality.
• Ideal for educational materials and gaming
Currently, there is a limited availability of high-quality apps for selection. You can explore the New York Times’ VR Virtual Reality Stories, as well as these suggested options.
The items within this grouping.
• Google Cardboard ($14.99)
This portable gadget, constructed entirely of cardboard, offers a unique and enjoyable way to engage in virtual reality. It is compatible with any smartphone and supports VR apps for both iOS and Android. Among the various options available from Google is the Google Tech C-1 Glass VR Viewer, which has a steampunk aesthetic and costs $14.99.
• SmartTheater Virtual Reality Headset ($19.99)
This viewer is designed for comfort and has lenses that can be adjusted. It also comes with a head strap and a user-friendly trigger input. Additionally, it includes a cardboard motion-controller for handheld use, which enhances gameplay. It is compatible with most smartphones and can be used with any VR apps on iOS or Android.
• View-Master Virtual Reality ($29.99)
The View-Master is designed for educational purposes, rather than entertainment. It comes in various packages that allow you to discover dinosaurs, space, wildlife, and more. Each package includes reels that can be inserted (your phone provides the necessary power). It is compatible with most smartphones and has specially designed apps for iOS and Android.
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The ideal choice for older children and pre-teens: VR headsets.
VR headsets are becoming increasingly expensive and advanced. They function similarly to viewers, as they require VR apps to be downloaded from the app store and for your phone to be inserted into them. However, headsets offer a more immersive experience compared to viewers, with the exception of the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View.
Headsets offer numerous benefits, such as increased comfort for extended wear, better fit to prevent light leaks, improved lenses, and the ability to connect earphones. This makes them a preferred choice for viewing videos, although they do not create a 3D effect. Instead, they provide a personalized movie theater experience. Additionally, headsets often come with built-in game controllers or are compatible with handheld controllers, offering more app options than a basic viewer.
• Pricier than viewers
• Compatible with most smartphones (except the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View) and iOS or Android apps labeled “VR”
• Enhanced immersion, but restricted environmental interaction
• Suitable for gaming, educational material, and watching movies
Currently, the options for high-quality apps are quite limited. You can explore the New York Times’ VR Virtual Reality Stories or these suggested options.
• Before purchasing, make sure to check the minimum age requirement set by the manufacturers for the headsets.
Items in this group
• Merge VR Goggles ($79)
This large headset in a shade of purple is constructed with pliable foam and features audio ports and two input buttons for convenient gaming management. Compatible with the majority of VR apps on iOS and Android.
The Google Daydream View will be available for purchase at $79 and is set to ship in November 2016.
This soft and airy headset is crafted from fabric and is made for use with Google’s latest virtual reality platform, Daydream VR. The platform features phones that are compatible with Daydream (such as Google’s own Pixel phone), as well as apps and controllers. The Daydream View comes with a controller and the company promises 50 apps will be available at launch, ranging from games to educational content to streaming services.
• Samsung Gear VR ($99)
The Gear VR is specifically made for Samsung phones and features an input pad on the headset’s side. It is also compatible with bluetooth controllers, making it easy to navigate through games. This device is compatible with games that are compatible with Gear VR, such as Minecraft Gear VR Edition.
• VR Kix Virtual Reality Headset ($49.99)
The Kix is a great choice for high-quality virtual reality on any smartphone, thanks to its customizable lenses, secure fit, and adaptable tray for smartphones. It is compatible with both iOS and Android VR applications.
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Gaming Consoles: Ideal for Ages 12 and Older
Currently, Sony is the sole provider of VR gaming consoles. Their newly released PlayStation VR headset, just in time for the holiday season, is compatible with the PlayStation 4. If you do not already own a PS4, you have the option to purchase the PlayStation 4 Slim or the PlayStation 4 Pro (also newly released for the holidays) along with the PSVR. This combination of the headset and console delivers a fully immersive and interactive VR experience.
• Restricted to use on Sony PlayStation 4
• Completely engrossing and engaging; potential for feeling queasy due to motion.
Some popular games for VR include Batman Arkham VR, 100ft Robot Golf, Final Fantasy XV VR, Battlezone, and Resident Evil 7. These games are known for being mature but there is a wide selection.
The minimum age recommended by Sony is 12.
Products in this category
The PlayStation VR Launch Bundle is priced at $499.99.
This bundle includes all the necessary components to transform your PS4 into a virtual reality experience. It includes a headset, camera, two motion controllers, a game, and necessary cables.
The PlayStation 4 Slim is priced at $299.99. The PSVR must be purchased separately.
This is a newly updated, thinner edition of the PS4 with enhanced graphics, an illuminated controller, and improved noise reduction.
The PlayStation 4 Pro is priced at $399.99, with the PSVR available for purchase separately.
Improved visuals, increased speed, and enhanced compatibility with select “Pro-Enhanced” games.
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Highly advanced headphones: Ideal for Teenagers
You might be familiar with the intimidating Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. These are advanced VR headsets that offer a completely immersive experience, earning them the nickname “Holodeck” in reference to Star Trek’s alternate reality. However, they do require expensive, high-performance computers (costing at least $500).
• Super expensive
• Games must be compatible (such as Everest VR, which is exclusive to Vive) and require high-powered computers.
• Complete interaction with your surroundings
• Games tend to be mature, including The Assembly and Deus Ex Mankind Divided.
• Ideal for families with teenagers; Oculus Rift requires users to be at least 13 years old, while Valve explicitly states that the Vive is not suitable for children.
Items in this group
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• HTC Vive ($799)
Provides a “room-scale” gaming experience. If your children use the Steam gaming platform, they have likely come across advertisements for the HTC Vive, which is manufactured by Valve, the same company that owns Steam. Steam offers exclusive games for the Vive that are tailored to utilize the headset’s special features.
• Oculus Rift ($599)
Includes everything needed to bring VR to life – except for the computer: a VR headset, sensor, remote, cables, an Xbox controller, and a game.