The problem with VR reviews

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When Virtual Reality products are compared, usually are wrongly compared for a reason: no balance is analyzed, only those factors that prioritizes who writes the review.

They are starting to proliferate many VR devices. Some require a mobile phone, others have everything integrated, others need to be connected to a PC… Their features vary and each one offers strengths and weaknesses. Some allow to be carried in a bag and take them anywhere comfortably. Others let us move us in the virtual world a few meters. Others have excellent ergonomics and do not bother to be worn. Others have high quality image. Others affordable price. Etc.

What is the essential feature? What is most important for a VR system? Is the image quality, the resolution, no showing Screen Door Effect? Is the quality of tracking, that the system always follow our movements to the millimeter in head and hands? Is it to be able to move widely in the space of a large room? Is it the price? What is essential?

It is clear that each user tell a different story. There will be for whom image is everything. They don’t mind not being able to move much or having to be always seated as long as the image is sharp and pristine. For others, VR is nothing if you are unable to get up from the chair and move, feel that you can freely walk through the virtual world, even if it is only a few steps in each direction. And even there will be whom everything is under the price, and for whom the unique feature is that the price is within something acceptable to the vast majority.

VR isn’t just one feature, that is clear, but a set of them. And each one goes in detriment of the other. It is very difficult to create a device that maximizes all at the same time. The price factor largely imposes restrictions on what can be done. And it is also clear that subjective assessment of users influences as well. What is the best product is ultimately a matter of determining what is more valuable for oneself. And there aren’t two equal users. There are thousands of users with different criteria.
Creating a VR device is ultimately a question of balance. This is about adding a number of elements in the balance that weigh no more than the price set. The developer of the device is ultimately who evaluate what is most important and adds it on the balance.

Let’s take some examples:

GearVR is a product that has the advantage that it is very economical, costs $100, and requires a mobile phone of about $600, but on the other hand has no power to move many graphics and also doesn’t provide a tracking system that allows move the head freely or walk.

PlayStation VR has the advantage of being very cheap, about $400, require a fairly inexpensive console about $400, but against it the console can not be upgraded to improve the visual appearance nor offers an advanced tracking, so it doesn’t allow moving around in a space. It has, yes, a very good ergonomics, the best in its class, and good image quality, but the graphics shown are limited by the power of the console, and once purchased, can not improve.

Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are expensive products, with its controls for hands come to cost $800, and require an expensive PC of just over $1000, but on the other hand can offer the most spectacular graphics that no one has seen in a VR device ever before. Ergonomics, although it is good in the case of Oculus, is still below PlayStation, but other aspects such as tracking are unsurpassed. In the case of HTC tracking system, developed by Valve, it is the best of its kind, allowing to make a large volume tracking. Moreover, added to this, these two systems are PC-based, which means they can be updated with better graphics cards and better components to achieve each year better graphics despite the limitations imposed by the internal screens these HMD use.

Everything in the end is a compromise. Oculus, for example, has given much importance to the issue of audio, introducing into their system an algorithm for creating 3D audio and integrating into the HMD a pair of good headphones. Others haven’t made much effort in this direction, leaving a simple audio jack where the user have to attach some owned headphones. Is audio a key aspect of VR experience? For some users it is, for others it isn’t. Valve, as another example, has created a tracking system that allows to be shared by multiple users or expand to growing spaces by placing more station emitters. It even allow the user carry a PC-bagpack and move freely wireless in the room. It is the only device that allows this. GearVR by itself cannot do this, nor Oculus Rift or PSVR. Now, is moving freely and wirelessly through a wide room the most important thing in VR? For some it is, for others it isn’t.

What to say in conclusion then? All reviews, as good as they may seem, are always bad. The only way to determine what is the best is that each user makes little effort to test the devices himself, calmly and with time, and determine what is most appreciated. VR, unfortunately, can not be described in words. It can not be described with images or videos. Nobody can tell us. We need to experience it to understand it and appreciate it. Soon many shopping centers will have test areas for VR and different devices for sale. The best way to compare will be to go them and spend a little time with a marketing guy explaining us and doing a test. Do not trust in reviews and comparatives! There is only one way to analyze, and is Tested, I mean testing :-).

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