But CES 2019 showed us that could soon change.
At some point, we will have to stop calling virtual reality a nascent technology. Quality headsets from the likes of Sony, HTC, Facebook, and Google have been on the market for years. Still, VR hasn’t quite found its footing outside of niche audiences. Admittedly, audiences are growing thanks to a spate of quality games that, importantly, offer experiences you cannot find in traditional games (i.e. Moss). Still, VR hasn’t quite hit its mainstream stride yet.
While there weren’t a ton of exciting VR headsets on the display, the three we were most impressed with us gave us reason to think that VR is about to really have its moment. Here are the best VR headsets at CES 2019.
The Oculus Quest could very well be the future of VR. Why? Well, while the Oculus Rift is a great PC VR headset for enthusiasts, the Oculus Quest doesn’t require a fancy gaming PC to work. This fact alone increases its appeal and potential audience by a metric ton. While Oculus already has experience with stand-alone headsets thanks to the Oculus Go, the Quest is quite a bit more powerful, bringing it closer to PC VR experiences that have been mostly reserved for serious enthusiasts up until this point.
As the first all-in-one VR gaming headset, the Oculus Quest removes the barrier for entry that has plagued high-quality VR thus far. The mid-range device uses only the cameras on the headset. What you see is what you get. Besides setting up the Oculus mobile app, you don’t have to fiddle with any additional parts or contraptions. This means the headset is a portable, fast option for getting in and out of VR experiences.
It comes with two controllers that are very similar to the ones used for the Rift. We only had a chance to check out Superhot and Project Tennis Scramble, but we came away mightily impressed by its performance. Our experience with Superhot mirrored that of other, more powerful VR headsets. So far, we know that 2018 standout platformer Moss, The Climb, and Vader Immortal are coming to the headset. But given that those games will run on the mid-range headset, it’s clear that the Quest will be capable of playing many of the great PC and PSVR games already available.
With a more friendly $400 price, the Oculus Quest might just push VR into the mainstream when it arrives in 2019.
HTC VIVE PRO EYE
The HTC Vive Pro is the best VR headset money can buy. Because of that, the PC headset comes in at a super premium price. At CES 2019, we learned that the Vive Pro would take the next step to further itself more from the competition. The HTC Vive Pro Eye is essentially the same headset that launched in 2018, with one crucial additional feature: Tobii eye-tracking.
The premise sounds futuristic. With Tobii eye-tracking, the Vive Pro Eye lets users control in-game experiences using eye movements. In our hands-on demo at CES, we checked out MLB Home Run Derby with eye tracking. Holding only a baseball bat, we had to track pitches with our eyes to know where and when to swing the bat. It’s something you have to experience yourself to really appreciate the nuance of the technology.
As far as how this technology will mainly be used, however, the Vive Pro Eye is geared more toward businesses. Businesses can use programs such as Ovation and Vive Studio to track in real time where users are looking. While that does sound kind of weird, the technology itself is very impressive. Hands-free controls could be the future of immersive experiences in VR, and HTC is paving the way with the HTC Vive Pro Eye.
PICO G2 4K
The latest headset from popular Chinese VR headset manufacturer Pico Interactive aims to bring 4K resolution to virtual reality. The Pico G2 4K is a business-use headset with the same specs as Pico’s other G2 headsets, but it trades 1,440 by 1,600 resolution for true 4K. As a business-use headset, the Pico G2 4K has at least three features made for making work life easier. Kiosk mode locks the headset into a demo mode with a single application and some applications even have hands-free control functionality (it comes with a remote, too). You can also swap out the face pads for cleaning, which is really essential in a business environment.
The Pico G2 4K will be available for businesses in the first half of 2019.