Unlike augmented reality, virtual reality (VR) is a simulated environment based on fictitious or real world locations. Virtual reality can also allow users to have a virtual presence in simulated environments. VR requires specialized hardware at a high cost for its head-mounted display and head tracking.
In 2012, the Oculus Rift released the Development Kit 1 as one of the first VR headsets of its kind. The Oculus Rift HMD is powered by a computer via USB and includes sensors such as an accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope. With an SDK and support for Mac, Windows, and Linux, the DK1 placed inexpensive VR in the hands of developers and gamers. Two years later, Oculus released Development Kit 2 while other HMDs aim to compete.
Google later launched Cardboard, a more accessible and inexpensive HMD. Cardboard allows any Android mobile device running the appropriate software (Jelly Bean and above) to simulate a VR experience similar to the Oculus Rift. However, most Android devices still have insufficient performance and displays that are not equipped to handle low latency VR.
When it comes to latency, I am referring to the display’s response time for head tracking. To make a VR experience as immersive as possible, every millisecond counts. 20ms or less is the ideal level of latency for reduced motion blur induced from head movement, enabling more realistic scenes with richer colors and contrast. Anything higher will have a noticeable lag. High latency can lead to a detached experience and contribute to a user’s motion sickness or dizziness.
Gear VR is the collaborative effort by Samsung and Oculus, and a cross between the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. The display is the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, a compatible android mobile device equipped with a ‘Quad HD’ display at 2560×1440 pixels per inch. This is the highest resolution screen seen on anything approaching a consumer VR headset. The OLED display also enables two key elements: a near-instant pixel switching time and the ability to produce truly black pixels. The mobile device is connected to the Gear VR via micro usb. While the display is powered by the mobile device, the Gear VR headset itself has built in Oculus Rift head-tracking module enabling more accurate and lower-latency tracking than Cardboard or other headsets that solely rely on standard mobile sensors.