Virtual reality is coming back, and it‘s better than ever! Unfortunately, it’s also very expensive, with obscenely priced PC and console head mounted displays, their peripherals, as well as the semi-hidden costs of actually having a machine powerful enough to run them.
But you know what is commonplace at this day and age? Smartphones! And it just happens that mobile VR is a thing, nay, more than a thing: it’s predicted to take up 75% of VR market. However, you might still want to get a cheap headset (cheaper than Samsung Gear VR), but not exactly the cheapest one (hello, Cardboard). So what viable alternatives are out there?
Mattel View Master
Do you want to feel really retro while actually surfing futuristic cyberscape of VR? Here comes the Mattel View Master. Looks like an old-school View-Master, works like Google Cardboard! Unfortunately, it’s very much a plastic Google Cardboard in that it doesn’t have a headstrap. It doesn’t have a virtual lobby, either, so moving between applications is not that easy. However, it’s as cheap as it gets, works with Google Cardboard apps and has a kid-friendly content Experience Packs. Much like Google Cardboard, it’s best used to view 360 videos and similar experiences, rather than playing games.
IncrediSonic Vue Series VR
Somewhat more expensive than the View Master, it actually packs quite a wallop. For starters, there are actual straps, so you no longer have to hold the headset to your head! Hooray! It also features spare nose pads and a microfibre cloth for those planning some intensive use. Vue works with Cardboard apps and has one additional trick up its sleeve: a Bluetooth remote controller (batteries included). Unfortunately, like most VR Bluetooth controllers, it only works with Android phones. However, Android users will be able to enjoy a variety of products that need more than gaze controls! The headset can also accommodate phones from four to six inches, and needs an adapter for smaller phones.
A step up in price from Vue is the Merge VR. It’s a smashing purple offering that accepts phones from four to seven inches long, and Merge thinks that most devices produced in the last two years should fit it. Merge VR features two sliding top buttons that control focus and can pull double duty (when pressed) to act as screen controls. It’s a decent, lightweight flexible foam beauty that also offers a lot of apps and demos on the Merge website. Plus, you can enjoy regular VR games, too, so get ready for endless runners and endless space gaze shooters!
Lakento Mobile VR
This headset comes from Spain and it also has buttons that allow you to control VR apps. Unsurprisingly, the Lakento Mobile VR costs similarly to Merge VR, what with having matching capabilities and all. The buttons were initially designed to control two games, Sharks VR and House of Terror VR. However, they work well on most apps that you can find on either Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. And of course, the thing comes with straps!
Homido Virtual Reality Headset
Homido is the most of expensive of this cheap bunch, and it’s sadly not bundled with a Bluetooth VR controller. However, it has straps, it has comfy padding and clips to hold your phone in place. The contact surface is interchangeable, you can set the interpupillary distance and it has setting to accommodate eyeglass wearers. It has its own apps with Homido Center, so you’re going to have a wide variety of choices, especially when it’s compatible with both Android and iOS apps.
By the time you read it, these cheap headsets might have become even cheaper. And the variety of entertainment they offer is increasing all the time. So why not be a creator? Get Unreal Engine 4 or Unity or whichever other major game engine you want, most of them are free now and support visual programing (no coding needed, just slam blocks of pre-written code together). You can also fish for free real time 3D assets (also called low-poly models) on online stock 3D marketplaces like CGTrader. Once you go that far, you’ll already have enough experience to hunt for audio, too! VR future needs your contribution!