One of the big things at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) is virtual reality. We’ve seen new headsets that work with your phone, new tech that’ll make virtual experiences more immersive and even some gadgets that’ll let you create your own VR content.
Virtual reality headsets
If you’re going to be taken to a virtual world, you’ll need a virtual reality headset, and there were three at MWC 2016 that stood out to us.
Samsung Gear VR
Samsung’s Gear VR has been around for a while now – the first version of it was released with the Galaxy Note 4 in September 2014 – but it’s getting a big relaunch alongside the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.
With the Gear VR, your Samsung Galaxy S7 provides the screen and computing power. Just plug the phone into the front of the headset and a pair of built-in lenses will focus the screen into a 3D image. Then the sensors in the phone track your head movements, letting you explore the virtual world.
There are a couple of things that make the Gear VR really great. First, the screen of the Galaxy S7 is stunning, so you get a really detailed virtual experience. Secondly, it comes free with the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge when you pre-order the phones.
LG 360 VR
With the launch of the LG G5, the South Korean company decided to muscle in on Samsung’s VR party with its own smartphone-powered virtual reality headset.
Unlike the Gear VR, however, the brand new LG 360 VR has its own screens and sensor built in. That means this headset is much smaller and lighter than anything we’ve seen before. In fact, it’s so light that the goggles simply slot over your ears like glasses, there are no straps needed.
The LG 360 VR isn’t quite as immersive as other virtual reality headsets we’ve seen, but the fact that it’s small and light makes it much more practical.
We’ve been hearing a lot about HTC Vive for about a year now. And at MWC 2016, we finally go to see the finished version.
HTC Vive is a truly high-end virtual reality gadget. It’s made up of a big, sensor-filled headset, a pair of laser beacons that track your every move and a pair of handheld controllers. Together, this system lets you walk through the virtual world and interact with virtual objects like nothing else.
To power the experience, you’ll need to plug the headset into a pretty powerful computer, but if you’re into gaming, the cost of Vive and a new PC is probably worth it.
HTC has announced Vive will go on sale from the start of April and will cost USD$799 (around £570).
Virtual reality tech
While the virtual reality headsets have been grabbing the headlines, MWC 2016 has seen plenty of other technology that’ll help make the VR experience better.
Samsung Gear 360
One thing that will make virtual reality better is the ability to easily create your own content. So alongside the Gear VR and Galaxy S7, Samsung’s been showing off a new Gear 360 camera at MWC 2016.
This little gadget has two cameras facing in opposite directions that each record video through ultra-wide 180⁰ lenses. Clever software then merges the two video streams into a single 360⁰ video. You can broadcast that immersive video live to anyone with a Gear VR, or you can save it to watch back yourself. It’s the next level of home movies.
LG 360 CAM
Not to be outdone, LG unveiled its own 360⁰ camera. The LG 360 CAM works in exactly the same way as the Gear 360 above, only it’s designed for the LG G5 and LG 360 VR.
That means you can easily record immersive home movies that you can share with other virtual reality fans or watch on your own LG 360 VR.
The Eye Tribe virtual reality eye tracking
All virtual reality headsets share one problem – you have to move your whole head to look around. In the real world, we do a lot of looking just by moving our eyes, but no VR headset can track eye movements yet.
That’s where The Eye Tribe’s new tech comes in. The company has developed a gadget that works with the Samsung Gear VR to track your eye movements, making the virtual world feel more natural.
The tech even saves battery and computer power. As the software knows where you’re looking, it tells the computer not to render everything else in high definition, saving a lot of power without affecting your experience.
Virtual reality is all set to take off in 2016. Tell us if you’re tempted by it and what you’d really want from the virtual world in the comments below.