There’s very little data that comes with the fancy visuals of VR marketing. Rather than a run-down of the specs, you often simply get a plain background with someone wearing the device totally engaged in whatever they’re seeing (similar to today’s car commercials).
How do you even begin to evaluate different hardware products?
Obviously, the higher the resolution, the better the image. VR headsets need to have higher resolution than the usual monitor, since they sit so close to your eyes. VR headsets have two screens for each eye, so some headsets list two resolutions in their specs. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both have two 1,200 x 1,080-pixel OLED displays.
(2) Screen refresh rate
Basically, this is the number of frames per second displayed on screen. More frames per second make movement on screen appear less choppy. So for effective VR immersion, the higher the refresh rate the better. Monitors can get away with lower refresh rate as they aren’t as close, but VR headsets need a higher refresh rate to be effective.
(3) Field of view (FOV)
A VR headset’s field of view is how much of the virtual world you can see at a given moment. Humans in our physical reality are able to perceive up to 180 degrees horizontally not moving their eyes. The wider the field of view, the better the immersive experience.
Obviously, lighter headsets are better. Eventually we might have headsets as light as glasses, or eye contacts with the capabilities of today’s bulky devices (hooked up to a cloud system).
(5) Interpupillary distance (IPD) adjustment
Interpupillary distance (IPD) is the distance between the center of the pupils. Some people have eyes that are wide-set, and others have more close-set eyes. Headsets that can make these adjustments for different head shapes will be more effective at personalized immersion.
(6) External sensors
Headsets don’t exist in a vacuum. It’s important to have headsets with great room tracking so you don’t hit things. Headsets that also have hand tracking capabilities help a lot with immersion when you’re able to see yourself in the VR world.
(7) Spatial Audio
In the physical world, you could hear sounds from a variety of directions. Spatial audio in headsets allows greater immersion by linking sounds to the virtual object presence. If a bird chirps in a virtual tree above you, it’ll sound like it’s coming from above as well.
(8) Head strap adjustment
The head strap on devices keeps the bulky device secured to your head. It’s good to have foam on the strap for head pressure. It’s also important to have the head strap be adjustable. Some people like a tighter head strap, some like it looser for longterm wearing comfort.
Screen brightness is self-explanatory. Our eyes clearly see better in bright settings than dark settings. VR screens that have enough light create better immersion.
Headsets are great, but they’re just portals to the actual content. What’s the operating system for the headset? What games are available on it? Do they allow third party content on their marketplace?
Not all headsets offer the same features, so consumers can look into what’s important for them.