Elara Explores: Virtual Reality (VR) Goggles


Virtual reality (VR) is an overarching term for any kind of immersive experience, and modern VR goggles are the beginning of the digital immersion renaissance.

As the industry is fairly new, companies have a chance now to make it big or to walk away. Taking the VR experience home can have a varied price tag, as prices run from $20 to over $800. When spending such a high amount, it is important to understand the distinct characteristics that vary between different immersion goggle models.

There are two main categories of modern VR goggles: tethered and mobile. These goggles are fitting for more than one virtual experience: augmented reality or mixed reality. Augmented reality is real-world style content, with some content present that is not part of the reality.

Mixed reality can combine digital and physical objects within the same reality but this technology is still being developed. This article will compare the pros and cons of tethered vs. mobile VR goggles.

Tethered VR Goggles

Tethered VR goggles are wired to a PC or game system, and are being identified as “mixed reality” systems. The cable can be an awkward part of the design, but the VR experience is much more immersive and complex as the user’s face does not need to be directly attached to the device. Top tethered options for VR headsets include the Sony PlayStation VR ($248), Oculus Go ($299), Oculus Rift ($399), Razer OSVR HDK 2 ($399), Lenovo Mirage Solo (up to $400), Samsung Odyssey or Windows Mixed Reality ($499), Pimax 8K ($499), Fove o ($599), and the HTC Vive aka SteamVR ($599).
A display dedicated to the headset, motion sensors, and an outer camera tracker dramatically improves head tracking and image fidelity. Tethered goggles are typically much more expensive due to the upgraded equipment capabilities. (Be sure to check out our Oculus Go Enterprise post)

The most cost-effective tethered VR option is $248, the Sony PlayStation VR, and that does not include processing, such the required gaming system. If the user is running an immersion experience on a PC that is not highly powerful, they will experience a reduced frame rate. PCs with less processing memory also may not be able to identify the user’s motion as well, as the sensors inside the devices are in charge of tracking body movements.
There are many options for choice of game in regards to immersion. Most of these goggles can be connected to an almost unlimited library of games, which will allow the user to have limitless reality options.

Pros of Tethered VR Goggles

Having the choice to lean or bend in VR is a drastic improvement over experiencing immersion with a mobile unit where there is no immersion of the user’s body, only their head. These sets are much more lightweight also, which makes it more likely that the user will forget that the equipment is strapped to their head. The display for tethered systems is more forgiving, as the brain of the user does not have to fill in as many gaps, which gives them a complete immersion experience. Some models have the capability to insert a graphics card, which can generate even more detail in virtual experiences.

Cons of Tethered VR Goggles

Physical space is typically necessary for wired VR systems, unlike mobile units that can be used anytime and at any location. PCs may need to be upgraded or even purchased in order to process certain tethered systems. This could be a highly expensive endeavor for those not planning to purchase or upgrade a PC anyway.

Pros of Mobile VR Goggles

Mobile VR goggles are a great way to introduce users to the simple concepts of virtual immersion. Mobile units are incredibly accessible and can be used with almost any smartphone. This is a highly inexpensive option for users who already have a smartphone. Panoramic movies would be highly enjoyable with mobile immersion experiences as the quality is likely much more immersive than any TV. Positive aspects of the hardware may even include track pads, volume, and back buttons on some models. Additional sensors are also present in some units so that the equipment can tell when the phone is inside and when it is not. Reduced lag and improved responsiveness are other results of improved technology available in certain models.

Cons of Mobile Virtual Reality Goggles

A mobile VR headset may not be the greatest immersion experience, and interactivity could be limited. Users may have to take the smartphone out of the goggles in order to change an app or game. Some brands of devices will only hold the type of smartphone they intended the user to integrate with the goggles. Overall, the experience for mobile immersion is to be expected based on the price point.
Another type of headset is in the prototype stage that allows users to explore a virtual area without the need to plug into an external processing system such as a phone, PC, or sensors placed throughout the room. There are also goggles that are standalone pieces of equipment that do not require a processor due to their internal location tracking. Technology is still progressing, and there are many types of immersion headsets available.

As the premium VR goggles are priced pretty high, mixed reality sets are in between, and the inexpensive smartphone-based models are fairly affordable; there are several options for a user with almost any end goal in mind. Now is a perfect time to experience VR, as goggles that are next generation likely will not begin to be revealed for a few years.

Be sure to also check out our VR Capabilities page as well as our Magic Leap Goggles and Full Immersion VR posts.