Promises, promises, promises. Here’s one that I’ve been waiting on since I was a kid(a long time ago). Virtual Reality gaming has been spoken of in quiet conversation for decades, but is only just now gaining traction in the mainstream once again. While there have been different forms of virtual reality gaming system available for years they have mostly been crude, bulky, and EXPENSIVE! But recently I’ve had the opportunity to try out a few of the newer versions that are powered by that wonder of wonders you keep in your pants. Your cell phone.
Let’s start by talking about the cardboard headsets that revitalized this genre of gaming – Google Cardboard. The opensource plans that Google released showing people how to build their own VR headsets out of a couple magnets, lenses and an old shoe box revealed a world of possibilities for both app developers and gamers. I managed to build one of these which I will not picture here because as it turns out I’m not good at crafts. I am, however, good at making things that are functional and these were!
While I was amazed that $6 worth of supplies and 30 minutes of my time could produce a VR headset the results were somewhat underwhelming. I’m not sure what I expected but the full IMAX experience this was not. There were noticeable 3d capabilities but the glasses were uncomfortable, you could not refocus the lenses if they were not quite right, and having my phone supported by the top of a box bound with a rubber band is not my idea of a good time. But it was a start. And it stirred my curiosity. I made a second set and a third each time getting better.
Then I turned back to Google in the hopes that the Grand Oracle could point me in the direction of a better path. I discovered quickly that several companies had capitalized on the release of an open source VR headset design and had taken them, improved them and put out some very interesting tech based on them.
I settled on trying Cynoculars as they were only $20, and came with a Bluetooth remote. They arrived and out of the box they came. I glanced over the instructions, fired up the remote, slapped a phone in the holder with a VR game pulled up and got ready for the ride of my life.
I stood there. The walls around me dripping wet and splotched with blood. The screams of tortured souls reaching out to my ears. Then they came for me. The undead attacked in hordes. And still I stood, gun at the ready, turning in endless circles. Ready to strike!
I stood ready because nothing was happening. So for the next hour my wife and I sat around fiddling with the remote, pairing it with different devices and having absolutely no luck no matter how many times we read the instructions. A key component to this headset being awesome didn’t work. We then read reviews from other people who had similar issues and found that the remote just seemed not to work with Iphones. Okay. Not a problem, my trusty Android to the rescue! And then:
Que disappointed sound effect( wan wahn waaaahhhnnn).
It wouldn’t even detect the remote. I was dejected, disappointed and watching childhood dreams breathe their last breaths as we started packing it away.
And then a stroke of genius! What if the button sequence to assign the remote to control certain aspects of your phone is wrong?! What if all these people just quit before they made this breakthrough? Could it be?
We synced the control back with my wife’s phone, and I started punching in sequences and pressing buttons until suddenly there was no sound. The phone had been put on mute. We had won the day.
The remote did work, just not as advertised. So we figured it out and tried the headset again. Here’s how it went:
The fit was comfortable and the unit felt secure on my head. It’s not too bulky or too heavy so movement of the head is not hindered. The cushion around the face could be a little better but it was nothing painful to wear or distracting. And best of all it was not made of cardboard, but lightweight, strong plastic.
The visuals were stunning. Everything that I did no like about cardboard this company addressed. The lenses were crystal clear, there was no bleed-through of outside light, the adjustments for focus were easy to make and really helped the overall experience.
The remote didn’t do much in the way of game control, but you could walk forward and backward, fire guns, and attack. It was certainly better than having a 3D view of zombies coming to eat your brain.
The sound was… coming from my phone. My one serious complaint here in that there are not built in headphones for this system. You have to use regular ear buds and feed them through the headset from your phone jack. In reality though, if you ever plan on letting another person use this headset this is probably a more sanitary approach and not all that much of an inconvenience. Unless of course you haven’t touched your headphones in weeks and have no idea where they are, like me.
All in all I liked this headset. No it’s not like you’re there, but they have definitely moved us closer. The experience is fairly immersive when you have the headphones in. I could see wasting a few hours of my time purely by accident because I got lost in the game. Videos were fairly impressive when watched through this headset and there is no shortage of material floating around out there.
I would tend to say that these units are well worth the money. I know you can spend several hundred dollars, maybe thousands, on headsets that are probably more impressive with better game play and access to more material, but in the end that’s a lot for the average Joe to spend on entertainment. For $20 you can get something that gives you an experience you’ve been waiting for since childhood and enjoy it because you can still make your mortgage.
If you’re wanting to check out the world of virtual reality while its in its infancy grab a headset from Amazon and go to town. Just know what you’re getting in to. It won’t teleport you to another world it’s just a more immersive form of entertainment, but it is fun!
Check out Cynoculars VR Headsets on Amazon
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