Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift Review

Even people who have no interest in VR or don’t pay attention to it are aware of the name “Oculus”. Why? Because Oculus has become to VR what Hoover is to vacuum cleaners. Founded in 2012 by Palmer Lucky and his colleagues, Oculus sold the idea that VR could be raised from the dead and that the time was right for the technology to shine.

We went through several pre-production Oculus models that got the media and developers hyped up. The developer models proved that the Oculus design worked, and now finally we have the actual, final consumer model that anyone can buy.

Woman using Oculus rift

Oculus Rift Competition

Of course, Oculus’s success was also a source of competition. Other companies quickly figured out that if Oculus could to it, so could they – meaning that the consumer version of the HMD was released into a market with other headsets such as the HTC Vive. How does the Oculus stack up in the field? Is it still the gold standard or are you better off looking elsewhere?

What’s In the Box?

The standard Oculus bundle comes in a nice little carry case that has a molded insert for all the bits that make up the core system. There’s a space for the headset itself, with a molded spindle you can wrap the long cord around when storing it. There’s also a little clip to secure the tracking camera and a compartment that stores the included Xbox One controller and the little dongle that makes it work with a Windows PC.

What you won’t find included in the package are the Oculus Touch controller set. That's a separate purchase, but usually offered at a discount if you buy all in one go.

The Dirty Details

The Oculus has a 2160x1200 OLED panel with a native refresh rate of 90Hz. This is exactly the same as its biggest competition, the HTC Vive. That makes sense, since Oculus has basically set the standard that others have followed.

It has to be said, though, that some other headset makers have already exceeded these specifications. But it’s still more than enough to give you a really convincing VR experience. All in all, the visual setup provides you with a 110-degree field of vision – comfortably above the 90-degree minimum needed for good immersion.

The Oculus has built-in headphones, but you can take them off if you want to use your own fancy cans. There’s a single camera sensor included in the kit, but you can add more to expand the size of the tracking area. There’s also a built-in microphone and a host of internal motion sensors.

Girl wearing Oculus Rift

The Infernal Engine

As you (hopefully) know, the Oculus is not a self-contained VR system. It needs a computer to drive all those pretty graphics and to process the tracking information. One of the big criticisms of the Oculus and other similar VR systems has been how heavy their system requirements are. It’s true that you need quite a hefty gaming computer to make use of the Rift.

The most important piece of the puzzle is your computer’s GPU or graphical processing unit. When the Rift launched, the minimum requirement was for a GTX 970 graphics card or equivalent. If you didn’t know, that was the second most expensive option at the time, but since then two things have changed.

The first thing that changed is Oculus figured out a way to reduce the system requirements. Kicking it down to a “mere” GTX 960 or equivalent. The second thing that happened is a small revolution in graphics technology. GPU maker Nvidia released its 10-series GPUs, which were a big leap in performance and power requirements. All of a sudden the cheap mid-range card had as much power as the GTX 960, which was upper mid-range. Not only that, these new GPUs could comfortably run in laptops, which are much more popular than desktop computers. In one fell swoop VR-ready computers became way more affordable. CPU requirements are now also more reasonable, with only a Core i3-6100 and eight GB of RAM needed to join the party.

You also have to keep in mind that while these are the minimum specs for Oculus in general, some specific games or experiences might have a higher requirements. Meeting the minimum specs also doesn’t mean that you’ll get an optimal experience. Because of the special methods Oculus has put in place to make the new minimum level work, there can be some loss in visual fidelity and slight artifacting. That is, some glitching in the picture. Oculus has a downloadable tool on their site that will let you know if you current computer has the chops to run the system. Be sure to give that a try before you spend a bunch of money on an HMD your computer can’t handle.

Setting it Up

Honestly, setting up the Oculus Rift for the first time was an absolute breeze. Just make sure you have a decent internet connection, because there’s quite a bit of downloading involved. Not only do you need the system drivers, but you also have to install the Oculus digital storefront. Just connect the camera to the USB 3.0 port, the Xbox controller to a USB 2 port, and the HDMI to the, er, HDMI port.

That last one actually gave me a bit of a headache, since my computer only has one HDMI port and my computer screen only has HDMI in; that meant I needed to get an adapter for one of the other ports on the card. So keep that in mind.

Going Shopping

The other key part of the Oculus experience is the Oculus store. Yes, you can use it the boring old way with a mouse and screen, but it’s designed to be completely usable from within VR. You can access your library and buy new titles without taking off your HMD.

The store isn’t perfect, but it is definitely a strong reason to have the Oculus, because it makes it as easy as using something like iTunes, and there was a wealth of content available to get to grips with the new system. I’m especially happy that there were some free demos that let you experience a variety of VR content out there.

Oculus Rift

Blowing Off Steam

One problem that does seem to crop up from time to time happens when you venture outside of the Oculus-approved garden. It’s not their fault, but most of the really interesting VR games are on the Steam platform, which happens to be owned by the same people who make the HTC Vive. I’m not saying that had anything to do with my difficulties, but getting Steam games to detect my Oculus can be a little hit and miss sometimes. Still, most of the time it works just fine.

Can We Have the Room?

The big elephant in the, er, room is of course room-scale VR. That’s HTC and Valve's big magic trick with the Vive. Thanks to their Lighthouse motion trackers and room-scale software you can get up and walk around with automated warnings when you get close to a real wall outside of VR. Oculus has tried to expand the tracking area of their product by allowing you to add more cameras, but it lacks the polish and forethought that went into the Lighthouse system.

So you have to ask yourself how important room-scale VR is to you. After all, most VR games aren’t being designed with that in mind and the Vive doesn’t have the sort of market dominance that guarantees you’ll have that sort of content to play on a regular basis. There’s also a whole host of other solutions such as omnidirectional treadmills and shoe-controllers (for real) to think about.

Is It Still a Good Buy?

At the moment there is no talk of a second consumer generation of the Oculus, so it’s still the best that the company has to offer. Does that mean you should be buying an Oculus instead of the other HMDs that are now on the market? That’s a tough question. While the Oculus has the widest software support of any HMD, other makers have surpassed in many technical aspects. More importantly, everyone has worked to make sure that their headsets are Oculus-compatible, further reducing the argument that the Oculus should be the one.

However, Oculus has cut down the price of the Rift by so much that everything seems to balance out again, and it really is a excellent piece of hardware. So my verdict is this: if you want the most advanced VR headset money can buy, the Oculus ain’t it. If you want to buy a consummately excellent VR headset at a fair price with incredible developer support, the Oculus is still very much where it’s at.

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samsung odyssey

Samsung Odyssey Review

In my article on the new Windows Mixed Reality Headsets I basically straight-up said that this was the VR and AR revolution we’d all been waiting for. Here was a standard for virtual and augmented reality that was built into the most widely-used operating system in the world. It also has support from some of the biggest hardware makers in the world, including Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Acer.

Even more incredibly, Windows Mixed Reality has support from one of its main competitors – Valve. The co-creator of the HTC Vive and the SteamVR platform seems to have embraced the Windows standard by letting it in on the SteamVR action. To me that’s a sign that even Valve knows there’s something to Windows Mixed Reality.

Apart from this, I was incredibly impressed with the design of the headsets we’ve seen so far – they are much more user-friendly and have a price point that would be palatable to more people. It’s also possible to use these HMDs with lower-specced machines if you’re going to do less fancy productivity VR or AR.

The best part of it all has to be its inside-out tracking technology that frees us from needing an external camera system to track movement. Instead, the HMD uses two cameras that scan the environment around us to make sense of our movement. This is also the key to the augmented- and mixed-reality technology that underpins everything.

samsung odyssey

A Slow Start

Unfortunately, the first run of hardware products has been a little lackluster. Yes, they are all priced around three hundred bucks, which is very attractive. However, the design, build-quality, and technical specs have been a little underwhelming, especially when compared to premium VR headsets such as the Vive and Oculus.

For example, while those headsets have a field of view around 110-degrees wide, the Windows HMDs have been stuck on 95-degrees, while using two 1440x1440 LCD panels. That's still over the immersion limit of 90-degrees, but not nearly as good as the VR pioneers.

Doing It Right

That’s where Samsung has now come in with their Odyssey Windows Mixed Reality Product. They’ve taken almost all of the aspects we’ve seen in the first HMD releases and addressed them in some way. That means, at least to my mind, that this is the first Windows Mixed Reality product that can be a real Oculus and Vive killer.

Samsung is one of the best hardware makers in the world. They not only make great tech themselves in the form of phones, TVs, and just about everything else you can think of, they also make many of the components that are inside other brands as well. There are plenty of devices with Samsung screens, hard drives, memory chips, and other components inside of them. In fact, the iPhone relies heavily on Samsung parts and would be a lot harder to make without them.

That means it's reasonable to expect something special from the Korean tech giant when it comes to its take on this new class of HMD.

Samsung Odyssey Competition

Up to the release of the Odyssey we saw products from Lenovo. HP, Dell, and Acer. Two of these are developer kits; not really meant for the average consumer. The HP is probably the nicest unit among the four, but all of them have that standard set of specs I mentioned above.

Just at a glance, the Odyssey is clearly a much nicer product to look at than any of the other devices on offer. It’s sleek, black, and tightly made. It retains the same headband and visor design of other WMR HMDs, but you’ll notice the integrated headphones, which we’ll get to a little later.

Even those all-important cameras are made in such a way as the headset does not have the same ugly googly-eyes of other models. This is clearly a product that’s at least as good looking as a Vive and, in my opinion, even more so.

samsung odyssey demo

Pumping Numbers

That’s all just superficial, however; its when we look at the spec sheet that the real differences come to light. The biggest feature comes in the form of AMOLED panels, each at 1440x1600 pixels.

The base spec of other HMDs use a lower resolution LCD. AMOLED is not as color-accurate as IPS LCDs, but it has lower persistence, better black levels, and a lot more “pop” to its color. Both the Vive and Oculus use OLED technology, and Samsung is probably the best OLED maker in the world.

These improvements in screen resolution and width also translate to a field of view measuring 110-degrees. That’s exactly the same as the Vive and Oculus, removing one of the only caveats I have about these Windows HMDs. Frankly, in terms of visual specifications the Odyssey now has those premium pioneers dead to rights.

We’re Jammin'

While the other HMDs in this new family of products only have an audio passthrough, Samsung has brought in technology from AKG to provide integrated spatial audio to their headset. This means that the Odyssey is also a complete solution not requiring the purchase of additional headphones. That may not be a boon to everyone, but to me the easy fit and utility of other Windows HMDs is spoiled by the need for a non-integrated pair of headphones. The Odyssey makes it all fit together as one. Besides, AKG is hardly a slouch in the audio department.

A Total Package

Before the Odyssey, Samsung’s last attempt at a VR HMD was the Gear VR. I’ve owned a Gear VR for more than a year myself and can’t go back to the crappy plastic HMDs that I had been using before. Samsung has become incredibly shrewd with the hardware that it designs and makes. It knows who it’s trying to beat, and both Oculus and HTC/Valve should be wary that the Korean behemoth is now moving into premium VR territory.

I don’t think that it’s an exaggeration to say anyone looking to buy a premium VR headset right now would have to come up with lots of really good reasons not to choose the Odyssey over everything else. After all, Steam has rolled out the red carpet with support, and the API is being baked into Windows itself. If I have to ask myself whether buying the Odyssey is the best decision, every fiber of my being is telling me “yes”.

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Leap Motion

The Amazing Leap Motion Tracker

When I first read about the LEAP Motion controller I thought it was an April Fool’s joke. The technology seemed too advanced and the price seemed far too cheap for something with such amazing abilities.

I’m going to go into more detail about what the LEAP Motion controller actually does, but the gist of it is that this little box can scan and capture the motion of objects you put close enough to it in real time. This means you can digitize objects like your hands without having to wear any devices or bulky attachments.

Leap Motion Controller

What is the Leap Motion?

Physically, the Leap Motion is a small box with a USB port at one end. It doesn’t look much different from a mobile USB modem. Originally, the Leap Motion was meant to sit on your desk, usually in front of the monitor. This effectively turned just about any screen into a motion tracking display where you can move stuff around and generally interact just by moving your hands around.

Under the plastic shell of the Leap Motion there are two infrared cameras. These can’t see in color, but they are very fast sensors with a high monochrome resolution. Since these cameras see in the infrared spectrum of light, they need a good clear source of it to work properly. So you’ll also find three infrared LEDs that provide good light to allow the cameras to see.

The Leap Motion hardware itself isn't particularly special. The IR cameras will each generate about 200 images per second, which is then sent to the computer for analysis. This is where the secret sauce of Leap Motion lives. Their special mathematics can take the image data from those two cameras in real-time and convert it into incredibly accurate 3D model data. So it’s not so much that the Leap Motion hardware is special, it’s how the makers of the tracker have figured out the mathematics needed to track movement to a very precise degree.

Razor Sharp

Just how accurately can the Leap Motion track stuff? Independent testing has pegged it to about 0.7 millimeters. That’s tracking accuracy on the sub-millimeter scale, which allows for all sorts of applications that would have traditionally worked with a mouse. For example, if you have a 3D CAD model on your computer screen, you can reach out and “grab” it with the Leap Motion. You can then rotate or transform the object with your own hands making use of that finely-grained tracking accuracy.

Leap Motion Controller

Doesn’t Kinect

You may think that the Leap Motion sounds similar to the Microsoft Kinect, but the main difference, apart from the accuracy, is that the Kinect was built for whole-body tracking. The Leap motion, on the other hand, only has a small tracking volume that encompasses a 2x2 foot space from the sensor. This makes it perfect for tracking hands, but not a body.

The Kinect and Leap Motion are actually complementary for VR purposes, since one can be used to track hands with high levels of detail while the other can map gross body motion. This data can then be combined for a more complete tracking experience.

Leaping into VR

I don’t think Leap Motion had VR in mind right from the start. It certainly never really featured in the early promotional material. But VR has been a godsend for the company, which has struggled to find a mainstream killer application for their tracker. The Leap Motion only costs about $70 but, even so, users are not going to buy it if they have no idea how they’ll be using it.

The answer to integrating the Leap Motion with VR systems turns out to be sticking it on the front of an HMD. In the beginning this was literally achieved with some Velcro stuck on the front visor. Now we have HMDs like the OSVR which has a dedicated holder for the Leap right on the front. Using this, it’s possible to digitize your hands almost perfectly without wearing anything. Sure, there’s no feedback, but it’s a cheap and easy way to add fine hand control to a VR sim. If all else fails, you can at least control Windows like you’re Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

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Omnidirectional Treadmills

Will Omnidirectional Treadmills Let Us Walk to the Future of VR?

Most VR experiences these days are what is referred to as a “sit down” or “stand up” experience. Just as the names suggest, the physical body of the play remains in one spot, either seated on a chair or standing in one place.

If the player’s character needs to move around this is usually achieved by using a number of workarounds. One way to do it is to have the character teleport from one spot to the next. We’ve seen this in games such as Arkham Asylum VR where, as Batman, you can only stand still at any given moment. It’s also a method we saw in DOOM VFR, but in that case the game’s story accounted for it.

omnidirectional cyberith virtualizer

The other option is to simply use a gamepad where movement through the world is controlled by way of the pad’s analog joysticks. This works as well as it does for any other 3D game – which is to say, pretty darn well. The problem is that this does not feel very immersive and also makes using motion controls awkward or impossible.

The third alternative is to use your actual feet to move around the way you do in real life. Room-scale VR such as that of the HTC Vive. That’s OK if you’ve designed your VR experience to happen within the confines of a 15x15 foot room, but it’s not going to provide the sort of expansive movement we’ve come to expect in games like Skyrim and the Witcher 3, which are traditional console and PC games.

That’s where the concept of an omnidirectional treadmill comes into play.

Any Direction You Want

We’ve all seen a treadmill. It’s a device that lets you walk or run in one spot, making it easy to get some exercise or train without having to leave the safety of your home or the gym. These treadmills are unidirectional. Well, I guess if they can be put into reverse they’d be bi-directional, but the point is that they are linear.

An omnidirectional treadmill is a device that lets you walk on its surface in any direction. There are different ways in which this can be achieved, but the end result is more or less the same. You can stand in one spot but freely move in any direction. While this is not particularly useful for exercise purposes, simulators can use the motion of the treadmill to translate your walking or running into digital motion.

Strapped In Treadmill

This comes with some inherent issues, however. Whether it's for a simulation or not, when you walk or run you are expending a significant amount of energy. If you trip, lose your balance, or otherwise mess things up, there’s a serious chance of injury. So omnidirectional treadmill setups tend to be equipped with harnesses and other sorts of safety gear meant to keep you upright and in one piece.

This is one of the reasons they haven’t become all that popular. You need some real motivation just to go to the trouble of strapping on an HMD, much less a body harness.

I have seen some more consumer-oriented omnidirectional treadmills that don’t need all the faff, but they also don’t allow you to run, crouch, or jump. Instead you can only do a sort of walking-pace shuffle. Still, for something that takes up very little space, it’s more immersive than sitting in a chair waggling a joystick to walk.

VRS Virtuix Omni

The Price is Wrong

While I personally think that omnidirectional treadmills are a great idea, I don’t really see them taking over in a big way. They tend to be bulky, heavy, and a pain to operate. One of the pioneers of omnidirectional VR treadmills, Virtuix, has already bailed on the idea of selling directly to consumers; they plan to sell them to VR arcades instead.

There are also more compact alternatives, although they might not feel quite as realistic. One cool idea is to put small sensors on your shoes, and then you can sort of walk in place with the system translating it to full running or walking. Sure, you might look goofy, but then none of the technologies in VR make you look cool. They just make you feel cool and that’s all that matters in the end.


laptop keyboard

The Four Best VR-certified Laptops

It’s no secret that you need a well-specified computer to handle the requirements of modern VR computers. Building a desktop to meet those hefty specs can put a dent in your wallet. That might lead you to think a VR-ready laptop is completely out of the question. The truth is, thanks to Nvidia’s 10-series graphics chips, (relatively) affordable VR-ready laptops abound. If you have plenty of money, then you’ll also be happy to hear that top-level chips such as the GTX 1080 are available in laptop form.

Here I’ve gathered together four VR-ready laptops that I think represent the best deals at their individual price points and specification levels. I’m not comparing them to each other, so they’ve been arranged from cheapest to most expensive. These machines are each aimed at users with different needs, but all of them will play ball with an Oculus Rift or other comparable VR system.


Acer Predator Helios 300

Acer Predator Helios 300

The Acer Predator series is about graphics and flashiness, with no apologies about being an entertainment-focused machine. They have also not been shy about sticking big price tags on their machines. But in regard to that last point, the Helios 300 is a bit of an exception. This is the VR-ready laptop coming close to a thousands dollars that I would actually want to own.

It's a 15.6” laptop, which is pretty much as large as you should go if you plan on doing mobile work, at least in my opinion. 17” and larger laptops do better moving from desk to desk. I wouldn’t want one on my actual lap or an airplane. This little guy weighs a mere 2.7KG, or 6 lbs for our American friends. It’s a little crazy that such a waifish laptop can house enough power to push VR applications, but there you have it.

I was amazed to find a laptop with such a low price tag featuring a 6GB GTX 1060 as its graphics core. The 1060 is amazingly capable and there is essentially no modern video game that won’t run maxed out on the built-in 1080p screen. Coupled with the tried and tested i7-7700HQ and 16GB of RAM, there are very few consumer entertainment apps that would make this machine break a sweat.

I just can’t believe the value for money this machine represents. It even has a metal chassis and a backlit keyboard. This is not just the best VR laptop at this price, I think it’s the best laptop at this price, period.

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The Razer Blade VR Laptop

Razer Blade VR laptop

The Razer Blade is an absolute miracle of engineering. It’s an ultrabook form-factor machine with the guts of a full-on gaming laptop inside. Moreover, it’s completely VR-ready. It squeezes almost exactly the same components as the Helios into a 14” ultrathin aluminum chassis. The main display is a gorgeous 1080p IPS LCD, which is way below the sorts of resolutions that would give a GTX 1060 any sort of trouble.

The privilege of this ultra-portability comes at a steep premium – almost double the price of the Helios. The only real downside to this laptop is the meager 256GB SSD. You can double that, but the price is already high. Still, if you have the money, this is one impressive little laptop.

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MSI GS73VR STEALTH PRO-060

MSI GS73VR STEALTH PRO-060

MSI is one of my favorite hardware makers. I’ve owned a few of their netbooks back in the day and more than my share of MSI graphics cards. They never really wowed me with their gaming laptop offerings, and yet now there are two of these machines on my list. It’s almost as if they were just waiting for something like the 10-series to come along to really blossom.

This Stealth Pro-60 comes in at just about double the price of the Helios, but the difference in specification is vast. The GTX 1070 might not be equal to two 1060s, but it makes a big difference. The 1070 generally has 40% faster performance. That doesn’t sound like a good deal so far, but it’s not just the GPU that’s beefier. This laptop has the same 7700HQ CPU as the rest, but that’s because this is the sweet spot between power consumption and performance. It’s a great choice of chip. The 16GB of RAM is also not a step up for the money, so where does the cash go?

Well, this machine is equipped with a blazing 120Hz screen which can actually take advantage of the 1070’s power to push high frame rates. It’s also got two 256GB SSDs in a RAID configuration for truly incredible primary storage throughput speeds. There’s also a 2TB mechanical drive for media storage. The RAM can be upgraded to 32GB by adding another stick to the second slot. This overall performance balance makes this a real corker of a machine, and the screen is an enormous 17.3” as well.

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MSI GT83VR TITAN SLI-252

MSI GT83VR TITAN SLI-252

Do you suffer from excessive money? Large bank account weighing you down? Do you lie awake at night wondering what you’ll spend your fortune on? Well, I have good news for you because I’ve found a fast way to burn through a cool five grand.

This utter monster from MSI comes with everything you could ever want, performance-wise, from a laptop – unless, of course, you’re an engineer or a scientist, in which case you’d want something with workstation components. If, however, you care about 3D graphics for VR and for the times you aren’t wearing your HMD, there are few machines that can top this.

Let’s go straight to the absolutely beastly graphics setup that comes with this machine . The GTX 1080 is basically the most powerful graphics chip that Nvidia has managed to squeeze into a laptop. And this machine has TWO of them. That means the GT83VR has more graphical power than you probably have a use for, but that also means there’s a fair bit of future-proofing built in for the money. Each card has 8GB of VRAM, which is plenty for the time being.

Powering those two monsters is a i7-7920HQ, which will hit a stonking 4.1 Ghz if you’re only really using one or two cores. If all four cores are cranking at full tilt, the minimum speed is 3.1Ghz. Either way, there’s plenty of horsepower on tap. RAM is also a healthy 32GB, which will be more than enough for the lifespan of this laptop. Honestly, even 16GB is overkill these days.

The main drive is a Samsung 960 EVO SSD. My own machine has an EVO 850, so I can attest to Samsung's dominance in the SSD industry. There’s also a secondary mechanical drive at 1TB for media files and backups. Even this drive is faster than average, with a 7200 rpm speed.

All of these fast and hot components have one big drawback and that’s how large the chassis has to be. However, thanks to that fat body, this laptop comes with a rare feature – a BluRay drive. Sadly it’s not a BluRay burner, but even so – finding Blu Ray drives in modern PCs is a true rarity. Heck, finding any sort of optical drive is a bonus.

Other incredibly premium features include a mechanical keyboard, which is widely considered to be the best (if noisiest) of keyboard technologies. This particular bundle also comes with a whole bunch of gaming gear which you may or may not care about. The gaming mouse is a nice addition and the fancy back is also a great pack in. That mouse will likely be your main weapon outside of VR, but I really like the right-handed touchpad that doubles as a numpad.

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The Time has Come

If you had asked me two years ago whether it would ever be worth it to buy a gaming laptop for VR or anything else, I would have give you a flat-out “no”. Oh, how times have changed! There seems to be a VR-ready machine for almost every budget, which means we can now go the mobile route with little hesitation.


PS4 PSVR

The Best PS4 PSVR Games

It’s hard to deny that all the best VR experiences are happening on PCs. They have a multitude of excellent premium headsets, an open software market, and plenty of support from the likes of Valve software. The problem is that VR on PC is just so darn expensive. A powerful gaming PC will run you well over $1000 and then you have to shell out half again as much to own a VR headset. Not too long ago things were even worse, with the necessary figures almost double!

Sony saw a huge gap in the VR market and now we have the rather excellent PSVR, which is compatible with all PS4 models, including the very affordable PS4 Slim. Not only that, but Sony has re-purposed the Playstation Move controllers, which were an attempt on the PS3 to compete with the Nintendo Wii. This means you can find these accurate motion controllers all over the place as used items, might still have them lying around, or can just buy them new if you have to.

Right now, hands down, the PSVR is the most affordable way to get a AAA VR experience. This is especially true if you are already a PS4 owner, since you just have to buy the HMD and then you’ll be ready to rock.

PSVR - Not So Exclusive

Usually when it comes to highlighting the best games on a given platform, it makes sense to highlight games that are exclusive to that platform instead of ones that you can also play elsewhere. In this case, however, it doesn’t matter to me that you can play some of these games in VR on a PC. It doesn’t even matter if they’re better on a PC. The difference in asking price between the two systems is so vast that you can either afford the best or not. Instead, I’d like to concentrate on the games that I think are the most fun on the PSVR, ignoring wherever else they may be available.

Note that some of these games require the move controllers, some work better with them, and others are perfectly fine with just the gamepad. Always make sure to check the controller requirements before shelling out for a game.


Resident Evil 7 VR

Resident Evil 7

This may not be an exclusive PSVR game, but it sure as hell is a system seller. Resident Evil games (known as Biohazard in Japan) go with the Playstation brand like peanut butter and jelly. This is basically the only truly AAA PSVR game right now, but honestly it’s worth buying a PSVR just to play RE7 VR. Then all the other lesser games are just icing on the cake.

Of course, if you have no appetite for horror games in general then a VR horror game is probably not the way to go, especially since RE7 has received acclaim as one of the goriest, grossest, and scariest RE games in ages. Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6 went into a much more action-oriented direction that worked very well at first, but the sixth game really jumped the shark for many people. RE7 signals a return to survival horror in a big way, and nothing is as heart-pounding as experiencing it up close and personal. Just be glad the PSVR has no way to replicate smells. Yet.

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Batman Arkham VR

Batman Arkham VR

Batman doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to quality video games. For the most part Batman games over the years have risen to the level of “mediocre” at best. That is, until the game studio Rocksteady created the first Batman Arkham game, Arkham Asylum. They showed that they really understood what it took to make you feel like the Dark Knight, and the slick hand-to-hand combat system they created has since been emulated by a number of other games.

Arkham VR is by no means a full-scale Arkham game, but it does demonstrate once again that Rocksteady lives inside the mind of our batty friend. Arkham VR is an action adventure game rather than a brawler. For a little while you get to embody Bruce Wayne’s alter ego and live a small part of his story.

While you do play the game standing up, you can’t actually walk around, which makes sense since the PSVR doesn’t really offer a way to move around freely. Instead there’s a bit of teleportation, but that doesn’t diminish the excellent illusion the rest of the time. Arkham VR may not provide the VR Batman experience many people would have hoped for, but it does provide the best take on a VR Batman game with current hardware. Remember, always be yourself – unless you can be Batman.

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Battlezone

Battlezone

In the year 1980 there was a little game called Battlezone released in arcades and for the incredibly popular Atari 2600. The game was remade in 1998 with less success, but when VR came to the PS4, the license was revived for a virtual remake.

Battlezone is notable for being one of the first 3D games for a home console and in the arcades. This VR version of the game is clearly much prettier than that blocky original from three decades ago. There’s not much to explain about the gameplay. You have a tank, they have a tank, don’t get blown up. Easy. It’s a funky sit-down vehicle arcade game that will help you recover from the dark depression of Resident Evil.

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EVE: Valkyrie

EVE Valkyrie

VR has really found a home in cockpit-based games – whether in the seat of a jet fighter, a racing car, a giant robot, or a space fighter.

At first glance EVE:Valkyrie might look a lot like Elite: Dangerous or even Douse of the Dying Sun, but the resemblance is only skin-deep and this is a beast of a different kind altogether. There’s no space exploration here. This game was built to be a VR-only multiplayer dog-fighting simulator set in the EVE universe. There’s single-player content, but this game should really be played with other human players.

The game was originally PC-only as well as VR-only, but both of these things are no longer true. The game can be played without VR and also on the PSVR system. CCP, the developer, has also indicated that it wants to allow cross-platform play between PC and PS4 users.

This is a game that’s very light on story content, but if you want to have a thrilling space combat then look no further.

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Star Trek Bridge Crew

Star Trek Bridge Crew

This is also available on PC, but I like this game so much that I think PS4 owners should know about it too.

Star Trek Bridge Crew pretty much does what it says on the box. You can assume one of four roles on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. Unfortunately this is set in the nuTrek universe with Chris Prine rather than in the TOS or TNG ships which most Trek fans (such as myself) would prefer. Still, one must not look a gift horse in the mouth; the game really does have a fantastic level of polish and it’s a good game at its core.

Although it is possible to play this alone, it’s meant to be played with three of your friends. Each person assumes a role on the bridge and you have to work together to accomplish your missions. Yes, this is basically the premise of the fantastic Artemis Bridge Simulator, but in VR and with an official license. Even if you aren’t particularly a Star Trek fan this game is a worthy addition to your PSVR library and a different take on exploring space in VR.

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Rez Infinite VR

Rez Infinite VR

Rez is a game that originally found life on the now-ancient Playstation 2, but it has been revived over and over again since then to live on multiple generations of consoles.

Rez is widely thought of as one of the most imaginative video games ever made. It’s an abstract musical game built around a core of shooter mechanics. While the colors and rhythms of Rez were never meant for VR, it’s turned out to be a match made in heaven – so much so that the game has won awards almost every time it gets re-released.

However, Rez is such a psychedelic game that a lot of people felt it might actually be a bad choice for a VR remake. In practice, it turns out that it’s a brilliant idea for a VR game and has been widely praised as a must-have experience on the PSVR platform.

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Superhot VR

Superhot VR

Just like Statik, Superhot VR takes the limitations of VR and turns that into its main strength. This is a game about standing still in one spot while you fight off a massive assault by a bunch of guys with knives and guns.

Sounds like a pretty typical video game so far, right? The big difference is that in this game you have incredible reflexes; so incredible that time literally stands still for you and only moves forward when you move. That makes Superhot not an action game, but a tactical puzzle game. You can spend as much time as you like figuring out how you’re going to take out all the dudes without being hit, since just a single hit is enough to kill you. When you have it all figured out you have to execute your plan. If all is well, you’ll make it out alive while your enemies lie defeated around you.

Superhot also has a distinct visual style. It’s not a heavily textured game, but this helps you keep your head in a complex environment and makes it smooth as butter. This is a unique and dynamic experience that will realize your bullet time dreams.


Statik

Statik

Something that (most) game developers have figured out pretty quickly is that you can’t just extract the game design models that work well on a 2D screen and stick them into a VR game. You need to think carefully about the nature and limits of the VR hardware in front of you and work within those limits to make something brilliant.

Statik is an amazing example of taking a limitation and turning it into a game’s defining feature. This game makes use of the standard PS4 gamepad instead of the motion controllers and is specifically designed to make sense as a seated experience. You see, in the game both of your hands are trapped inside a puzzle box, matching perfectly with the fact that both of your hands are holding onto the controller, which is being motion tracked. This creates a very convincing illusion that your hands are actually trapped in the box and shows how you can make something incredibly immersive with a few simple design tricks.

To free your hands from the box you need to manipulate its various parts by pressing the buttons on the controller. Each box is different, so the buttons change the effect they have with each puzzle. Through a patient process of trial and error you can figure out how to get the darn thing off you. It’s not a big AAA game but it’s clever, enjoyable, and deserves to be in every PSVR collection.


VR Glasses headsets

Virtually Sick: How VR Can Be Bad For You

Just about every medium has had its share of people who claim that it’s somehow bad for you. TV? It will rot your brain. Computer games? They make kids violent, ya know. I’m pretty sure that when they finally moved away from scrolls to books there was someone saying how the bound book with its evil page turning would be the ruin of society.

So it’s good to approach any claims that VR is bad for you with a healthy pinch of skepticism. After all, new things are scary and people will blow small things out of proportion through fear. That doesn’t mean that VR doesn’t have health implications. It just means we should have a calm head when talking about the subject. As a user of VR or someone who lives in a household with other VR users, it’s important that you understand the general health risks that come with using VR and make sure that you deal with them constructively.

In this article I’m going to talk about some of the potential health issues that come as part of VR use. Not all of these will apply to all people and to all hardware, but I think this is a decent spread of common concerns.

vr health effects

The Eyes Have It

One of the most obvious points of concern are your eyes. After all, most of what VR has to offer is delivered straight to your eyeballs and into your brain via the optical nerves. So what could go wrong here?

There’s a persistent myth that looking at a computer screen all day causes all sorts of eye-related issues, such as nearsightedness. It turns out that there’s no particular danger in staring at a screen for prolonged times. However, looking at your computer screen and looking at the LCDs or OLEDs inside a VR headset is qualitatively different.

The lenses in VR headsets compensate for the short focal distance to the screen. So looking at those screens is like looking into the distance. That’s fine, but if you have existing eye problems and need glasses, you’ll need to make sure that the HMD can be adjusted in such a way that your eye(s) don’t strain to focus constantly. That’s a recipe for eye strain and all the unpleasantness that goes with it.

You should also pay attention to the brightness levels of the screens inside the HMD. Staring at a strong light source for a prolonged time can also cause strain, not to mention overworking your poor retinas. So dial the brightness down as much as you can while still keeping everything visible. Many applications have a brightness calibration tool to make sure you see the VR world as intended.

Can You Ear Me?

While this isn’t specifically a VR danger so much as a general headphone danger, it should still be on your list of things to consider. Simply put, having the volume on your headphones set too high can lead to permanent hearing damage and eventually deafness. Take it from someone who spent too much time mere feet away from concert PA systems – lifelong tinnitus is not fun. While having really thumping sound can help VR be more immersive, it’s not worth going deaf over.

A Pain in the Neck

Old-school VR from the 90s failed for many reasons, but one of them is that humans simple can’t have a huge, heavy object sitting on their heads all day. The neck strain potential was incredible and there’s no doubt about the general discomfort. It got so bad that they had to suspend some HMDs to take the weight off the user.

These days things are way better. HMDs tend to weigh a kilogram or less, but that doesn’t mean that your neck is now completely safe. For one thing, even a small weight like a modern HMD will put some strain on your neck over a longer period of time. That’s not the end of it, though. Another risk to your neck is repetitive strain from making the same small head movement over and over again.

Currently, VR takes more effort to look around your environment since you don’t have as much peripheral vision. Constantly looking back and forth can do a real number on your neck and, worst of all, you might not realize it until later.

Vr Pain

Are you Sitting Down for This?

While VR experiences tend to be more active than simply using a computer, most home VR is still a seated experience. Sitting for long periods of time is known to wreak all sorts of havoc on the body.

It’s not just about gaining weight and all the nasty stuff that comes with that territory. Even people who exercise, have a healthy weight, and are otherwise fine can suffer serious health consequences from sitting for too long. It’s the whole reason we’ve had the standing desk fad in recent years.

While this risk is definitely just as true for normal computer use, there’s a key difference between using VR and a standard PC in this context. With a PC you are still aware of your surroundings. Your focus can be more easily taken from the digital world to the real one. With VR you are much more engaged and, I think, more likely to sit for longer than is healthy.

A Stand Up Guy

Ironically, especially given the standing desk fad, standing for too long is also bad for you. So if you’re a fan of those stand-up Vive experiences you might want to make sure that you have good footwear and take regular breaks.

Nice Trip, See You Next Fall

Which reminds me of another thing. If you are standing up and moving around in VR, for the love of all that is holy make sure you clear up things around you first. Not only can a trip and a fall wreck your very expensive VR equipment, it could do some serious damage to you. After all, as far as the real world is concerned you’re walking around blindfolded. It might even be a good idea to invest in some flexible pads usually worn by skateboarders – the type of soft pad that companies like G-Form make.

Stomach Troubles

Motion sickness happens when the orientation information that your eyes send to the brain doesn’t match up to the balance information sent by the inner ear. It can cause dizziness, nausea, and, if you’re unlucky, vomiting. This is one of the key issues that modern VR hardware is meant to have solved. However, some people seem more susceptible to it. It can also depend on the type of VR experience; if it involves a lot of spinning around you might just start feeling a little green.

Time is a Killer

You’ll probably notice that most of these problems are not so much an issue of the types of things that VR exposes us to, but more about how long we are exposed to them. Too much of a good thing is hardly ever healthy for us. The thing is, no one yet knows what a good balance of time really is. It’s likely to vary based on each person's tolerance.

Some of these problems, such as the brightness of LCD displays, might be solved technologically. For example, retinal projection doesn’t cause the same sort of eye strain. With further refinement of VR technology it will likely become possible to reduce or eliminate these effects. Until then, watching yourself and limiting time is the only real way to enjoy VR responsibly.

Psychological Issues

Apart from the physical effects of VR there are more subtle, mental effects to take into account. It’s early days to know what embodied VR really does to the mind, but even before VR became something Joe Public could take part in easily there were concerns about the effects of other media. Do violent movies make people violent? Do horror films cause trauma? At one point that was a pretty common belief. In some specific instances people have been “inspired” by films to do some messed-up things. Of course, the vast majority of well-adjusted humans can watch movies, be entertained, and come out just fine.

Video games were the next medium to come under scrutiny. The added interactivity and growing realism raised concerns that games would teach kids (and later adults) how to be antisocial miscreants; that time spent shooting up virtual people would lead to real life violence. Those connections have been shown to be tenuous, with other factors such as severe mental disorders being present to twist the medium's responsibility.

Then we come to VR. As I explained in another article, VR has been used to treat mental disorders for decades now, but that also implies that VR has psychological effects. What they are and how serious they could be is still an open question, but researchers are working in this problem as I write this.

Boy Oculus Rift

VR and Kids

There are plenty of things that are pretty harmless to us as adults, but are much more dangerous to children. Because kids are still developing, they’re more vulnerable. For example, when Nintendo launched their 3DS console it turned out that the autostereoscopic screen might have permanent negative effects on the vision of children under a certain age. This is why the product now carries a warning to that effect.

I think it also stands to reason that you should take age restrictions on content seriously, especially when it comes to VR. You may feel that your 16-year-old is mature enough to play the latest VR horror game, but the actual experience may be more intense than either of you expect.

What To Do

So with all this health-scare business, what exactly should you do about it? The one measure I have already mentioned is limiting how much time you actually spend in VR. Maybe don’t stay in there for longer than an hour without taking a break. Of course it’s no fun constantly having to think about time limits, so you might just want to set some sort of alarm in order to remind you when it’s time to take a 15-minute breather.

Having regular breaks like this will help mitigate most of the more common issues I’ve talked about, but there are more subtle things to watch out for. Perceptual disturbances, especially ones to your vision, are of concern. Changes in your mood or sleep patterns after starting to use VR regularly are also worth watching out for. We don’t really know what’s going to happen to some people once VR really becomes commonplace, but knowing something is wrong is the first step to it all. That’s not the same as saying that VR will be bad for you – just that you should have awareness.


htc vive

HTC Vive Review

The HTC Vive was the first shot across the bow of VR pioneer Oculus after it released its Rift HMD. Backed by respected hardware manufacturer HTC (which is also known for phones) and Valve corporation (which is known for Steam), the Vive came out swinging with its technological superiority.

Thanks to the pioneering work that was done by Oculus, the makers of the Vive could look at what had been done and build on it. Sometimes it’s better to be second in line rather than first because then you can learn from your predecessor's fate!

HTC Vive Headset and Controllers

Cyberpunk Blues

The styling of the Vive leaves me in mind of Cyberpunk aesthetics. Think of shows like Ghost in the Shell, The Matrix, and other similar dark and gritty futuristic fiction. The front of the faceplate is covered in indentations that play a role in the tracking system. These make you look like some sort of spider robot, which I think is very cool indeed. Not that you’ll notice, since you can’t see yourself while wearing the system!

All Those Pretty Numbers

Compared to the Rift, its main competitor, in the Vive HTC has matched specifications on an almost point-by-point basis. Both have an OLED panel, both have a resolution of 2160 x 1200, and both have a field of view rated at 110 degrees. Both have built-in audio, HDMI, USB 3, and so on. So in terms of the base headsets themselves, there doesn’t seem to be much choice between these two products.

Track Me If You Can

The key feature of the Vive that sets it apart from the Oculus and most of the competition is the fact that it was designed for “room-scale” VR. What’s that? Simply put, with a system such as the Oculus Rift you are only meant to sit or stand in place. The tracking system is not designed to follow you around the room, but only track you within a small cube of space.

Thanks to the two “Lighthouse” base stations, you can be tracked within a 15 x 15 foot cube. It’s more than just a wide-range tracker. Valve and HYC have created a boundary system that warns you in the VR world when you’re reaching the edge of the tracked space. Hopefully this will prevent you from mashing into things as you walk around in the VR world.

Just remember that the Vive is still a tethered solution, so you still need to manage the cable. Vive (and just about everyone else) is working on a wireless display system, but it will be a while before the latency is low enough to make it practical.

Of course, Oculus has come to the party and you can get room-scale tracking by buying two more expensive tracking cameras. The Vive is, at the moment, the only product that does room-scale out of the box.

htc vive vr

In Control

The Vive kit comes with two motion controllers that look rather reminiscent of Oculus Touch. That’s a bit backwards, though, since the Vive actually beat the Oculus to the punch when it comes to getting its touch controller to the market.

I actually think that on a design level the Oculus Touch looks nicer and more comfortable. The Vive motion controllers are larger than the Oculus units, largely because the sensor rings tracked by the base stations are so chunky. Overall, the Oculus units are a little more refined, but the fact that the Vive system always includes the controllers and is designed for them from the ground up makes the overall experience better.

HTC Vive Bonusses

After dropping so much cash on a new toy, it sucks to also spend more money to buy software for it. The good news is that there is some free content that you can try right away the moment you have you Vive up and running. Three titles are included: the excellent Tilt Brush art program, Everest VR, and Richie’s plank.

Software Heaven

This being Valve’s own product, you can rest assured that support for the Vive is baked right into the Steam gaming software platform. There are hordes of VR games for the Vive, which all run through SteamVR. The Vive is really a very easy system to work with if you are already familiar with Steam.

Interestingly enough, the Vive does have its own digital storefront as well. It’s called “Viveport” and here you’ll find titles that are only meant for the Vive. Why Valve felt they needed to create a second digital platform when they already own the largest PC electronic gaming store in the world is beyond me. Still, it might make things easier for users that do not hail from the hardcore gaming crowd.

The Final Word

Thanks to the opportunity to watch the Oculus in the wild before going to market themselves, Valve and HTC were able to create a product that one-ups the Oculus in almost every way. Yes, it costs quite a bit more than the base Oculus, but if you consider what the standard equipment looks like and the price of getting an Oculus to have features parity, it’s actually pretty close. If you can afford it, the Vive is currently the best all-round PC VR system for gamers and general consumers.

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Project Morpheus

PSVR Review: The Everyman VR Solution?

When we first saw the requirements that the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive came with, it was clear that premium VR would be something that only PC users would enjoy for a long time to come. Heck, even the vast majority of PC gamers and general PC owners simply did not own hardware that could reach the lofty levels of horsepower demanded by next-generation VR.

No one really expected that this current generation of consoles would power any sort of VR device worth owning or using. Not even Microsoft, which makes the Xbox One and is pioneering mixed reality, showed any interest in trying to squeeze VR out of their console.

Then Sony basically said “Screw it, we’ll do it anyway” and today we have the PSVR. It’s a console peripheral that might yet fail, but already 1 in 60 PS4 owners has a PSVR, and the PS4 is the best-selling console of the generation. For a supposedly “niche” add-on, that’s quite an achievement. But should you buy a PSVR? Let’s look at what this device has to offer.

Playstation PSVR review

A New Design

Before paying any mind to the technical details about the PSVR we have to take a moment to appreciate the design that Sony has put into their product. I’ll admit to owning a mountain of Sony products over the years. I’ve owned every Sony console both at home and in handheld form. I’ve had Sony music players, TVs, and cameras. I don’t feel like a Sony fanboy, but often the combination of design and looks wins me over.

One place where Sony regularly commits a sin is when it comes to proprietary formats. MiniDisc, Memory Stick, and Vita memory cards are just a few egregious examples. In this case, Sony has once again made something that will only work with Sony stuff. However, here it makes perfect sense since there’s no way a console maker is going to produce peripherals that work on other machines.

Sony has also come up with a corking design here. I’ve always hated how fiddly the head straps are on PC VR units. It feels more like trying to strap on sports equipment than a slick piece of electronics. Sony has gotten around this by opting for a plastic headband that secures itself around your forehead and the base of the skull. This makes it quick and easy to put on or take off. Reducing the song and dance associated with getting prepped for VR is a stroke of genius on the part of Sony. Once you’re in the VR experience, it's great. But often when I think about how much work using my Oculus is, I just boot up my console instead.

The headband is only one part of what makes the PSVR design good. The other aspect is the fact that you can flip the visor up without taking off the headband. This means you can quickly check what’s going on around you and then go back to the game. This is a design that’s so sensible, it’s no surprise that Microsoft basically copied it wholesale with their mixed reality headsets. I’m just surprised that there hasn’t been a case of patent infringement yet.

PSVR Under The Hood

The PSVR unit is actually pretty well specified, despite costing a bit less than an Oculus, Vive, or similar system. A lot of the cost saving comes from the fact that it piggybacks onto the PS4’s existing hardware for motion tracking. If you already have the PS4 camera and PS Move controls (from the PS3 era) then you only need to fork over the money for the headset itself.

The unit has a 5.7” OLED screen with a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. That's 30Hz more than any of the big names on the PC side. Both the Oculus and Vive have 90Hz panels. It’s a bit of a moot point, since none of the PS4 models have the sort of horsepower to drive anything but the simplest graphics at that frame rate, so perhaps Sony intends to make the PSVR forwards-compatible with newer, faster models of Playstation in the future.

psvr bundle

Games for the Win

Just as with game consoles in general, it doesn’t matter if you have great hardware if there are no games to play on your machine. So it’s a good thing the PSVR has significant support from both Sony and third-party developers. I’ve listed the best PSVR games in a separate article, but it’s worth mentioning Triple A games such as Resident Evil 7 VR and EVE Valkyrie.

There is also a healthy number of new games on the horizon, and with more than one million PSVRs sold I think there’s already a solid install base for some great VR exclusives. On top of this, plenty of mainstream games are likely to have VR modes as well. Obviously the PSVR will have a hard time matching the PC platform when it comes to the diversity and number of VR titles, but then again you’ll have to spend a fortune to access them, so it all evens out.

Accessories Included

The set in question here is the PSVR starter pack, so it includes the motion controllers, camera, and headset. If you got a camera with one of the early PS4 bundles then this isn’t really the set to go for. If you only have a PS4 console without any of the accessories then this is the best deal.

Playstation Pro or no Pro?

VR is resource intensive, so many people will be asking if they need the more powerful PS4 Pro to make the most of VR. It is a fact that PSVR games that have received a PS4 Pro update will look better and perform better, but is it worth the upgrade?

In general, the difference is very subtle; all PSVR games are designed to be playable on the base model. So I’d say that if you already own a regular PS4 then it’s not worth upgrading just for a little better performance. If, however, you are buying an entire setup with an eye on VR, it’s better to go for the Pro model.

Review Thoughts

A VR-certified PC and an Oculus, Vive, or similar system in undeniably superior to the PSVR. However, there is no denying that the PSVR is a true AAA VR system and that it is the most affordable, accessible, and slick solution on the market. This is AAA VR for the masses and the only viable option at this price point. Sony has done something amazing here and it’s a perfect entry into the real deal VR experience.

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ar games mobile

6 AR Games That You Have to Try

They say that the proof is in the pudding, and when it comes to AR games that has never been more true. There’s no real way to convey what’s special about these next-generation video games without trying them for yourself.

Lots of developers are now jumping on the AR bandwagon and you’ll certainly find a lot of shovelware titles out there but, still, some games stand out as ones that everyone who is a little curious should try. Of course, there are hundreds more that would have been just as at home on any recommendation list, but here I’m trying to whittle it down to a few good places to start – a way to alleviate some of that choice paralysis we all face these days.

So here are six AR games that you can try without buying a specialized AR headset. Most of these are for mainstream tablets, smartphones, and game consoles. I’ve also tried to do a decent mix of genres, so that there’s at least one app for every reader.


Pokemon Go (iOS and Android)

Pokemon Go

No list like this would be complete without Pokemon Go. A rare departure from Nintendo hardware, this Pokemon game put the concept of augmented reality on the national agenda. For a while Pokemon Go was the only thing anyone would talk about.

This is not a full, traditional Pokemon game. Instead you need to physically walk around and hunt for the titular Pokemon. Once you find one you can see it in AR, sitting there, just waiting to be caught. The object of the game is to capture the entire collection of available Pokemon. You can also level them up and use them to take part in “gym” battles, which are essentially base defense fights.

Pokemon Go is a pretty fun game to play with other people, and it combines more than just AR technology to create something really fascinating. The hype around the game might have died down by now, but it’s still worth trying out. The Apple iOS version in particular is great because it makes use of the latest ARkit technology, which makes the Pokemon look much more solid and real than it does on other platforms.

Download From Google Playstore

Download From App Store


Night Terrors: The Beginning (iOS)

Night Terrors

If I haven’t said it yet elsewhere on this site, I’m generally not a fan of horror games set in VR. I like horror games on traditional platforms, but being immersed in that situation is not something I enjoy. AR horror games, on the other hand, combine that immersion with the safety valve of simply looking away. At least, that’s how I tried to convince myself. But it turns out even spooky things viewed through a tiny smartphone screen can give you the heeby-jeebies.

Night Terrors is an aptly named app (oops, accidental pun!) that takes your own warm and fuzzy home and turns it into some sort of weird Ghost Hunters, found-footage monstrosity. It’s a pretty clever design while it lasts. This version of the game is a free teaser with the full (paid) experience still to be released at some point in the future as I write this. However, that makes it perfect for this list, since all we really want is a taste of what’s possible. Night Terrors isn’t perfect, but it’s a great sign of things to come – for other people. I can’t play this anymore.

Download From App Store


Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir (3DS)

Spirit Camera

This game is pretty old now and is only available on the Nintendo 3DS console, but I felt I had to mention it because it’s still such a clever use of the technology. If you are one of the millions of people who have bought a 3DS (and you should) it’s entirely possible that you might have overlooked this game. The good news is that these days you can buy it for just a buck or two, especially if it is a used copy. That’s also good because, to be honest, the game itself doesn’t have enough substance to warrant full retail price. I picked up a copy on clearance for almost nothing and from that point of view it was great.

It might seem weird to include an AR game from a relatively old handheld console here, but one of the interesting things about the 3DS is that it comes with a stereoscopic screen AND a stereoscopic camera. That makes for a rather unique AR experience.

The game sees you attacked by angry spirits that you then have to defeat with your “camera”, which is of course the 3DS.
Another interesting wrinkle is that you use a little AR booklet to progress the story, which I found charming. Of course that’s why you have to buy a physical copy of the game. There’s no way to digitally recreate the book!

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Genesis AR (Android)

Genesis AR

Genesis AR is the result of a successfully-funded Kickstarter campaign. It incorporates an AR battle game with a sophisticated trading card system. In other words, the game uses a printable anchor to summon fantastical creatures that then fight – brutally. Oh, dear. It’s almost like some sort of dog-fight thing. Isn’t it?

Either way, this game has some killer graphics, great animation, and a fun gameplay concept. As I write this, it’s still pretty rough around the edges, being such a recent release and all. Still, well worth a look!

Download From Google Playstore


Stack AR (iOS)

Stack AR

Stack AR is the first ever ARkit game I played. ARkit is Apple’s amazing software solution to persistent, trackerless AR. I’m still flabbergasted by how they manage to do things that used to require special hardware, such as the Hololens or Google Tango system.

Stack AR is a simple game which looks a little like Jenga. The goal of the game is to build the tallest tower possible. The topmost block swings back and forth and any part of it that overhangs the next block down gets chopped off when you set it. So your top block gets smaller and smaller the further you go. You need to see how many layers you can stack before running out of block.

The game itself is about as simple as it gets, but it is an amazing example of cutting-edge AR technology. Your little stack of blocks stays on the surface where it started, even if you look away with the camera and then look back again. The lighting of the virtual objects also looks spot-on compared to the surrounding scenery. The feeling of solidity Stack AR manages with just a simple game slash tech-demo is jaw-dropping. Not much of a game, but a must-buy nonetheless.

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Warhammer 40,000 Freeblade (iOS)

Warhammer 40,000 Freeblade

The Warhammer franchise is a worldwide phenomenon. From the hardcore tabletop miniature game to the many excellent video games based on the property, there’s a lot to like about Warhammer.

This particular game didn’t start out as an AR showcase, but when ARkit launched, the developers added an AR mode that allows you to summon a giant imperial mech to stand next to your car. The game itself is so-so, but that AR mode is pretty sweet.


Get Your Game On

It’s funny how many people are walking around with AR-capable devices in their pockets without ever giving it a try. If you have an modern handheld console, tablet, or smartphone you are just a few clicks or taps away from getting in on the action with AR games. So why wait? Whip out that hardware and get your game on!