2016 is the year that high-end virtual reality will finally make its way to consumers homes. We don't mean the Google Cardboards and Samsung Gear VR's of the world. While Google is one of the smartest companies in the world, and Samsung uses Oculus tech to power its VR experience, the two headsets are just the tip of the virtual iceberg.
If Google Cardboard and Gear VR are level 1, the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation VR are level 5.
At this year's Game Developers Conference (GDC 2016) taking place from March 14-18 in San Francisco, show attendees can look forward to many news updates and demos in the way of virtual reality from all three upcoming platforms. Here's a primer on what to expect.
The Oculus Rift helped kick off the modern VR-scape as we know it. And with March 2016 being the time that the consumer-ready $599 Oculus Rift headset is set to be released, Oculus wants to build as much buzz as possible. Enter Oculus's presence at GDC 2016.
Oculus will attend the Game Developers' Conference for 2016 and bring some news to boot. The company is planning to give attendees a launch preview of the Oculus Rift. The preview will give those visiting GDC the ability to play Oculus Rift games before the headset ships to buyers.
Most of the details surrounding the Oculus Rift are known to the public at this point. Though the Facebook-owned company could have a surprise or two left up its sleeve for the week of the game conference. We'll just have to wait and see.
The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have a lot in common, yet the Vive boasts some additional features at its higher $799 price point.
Users may appreciate the ability to connect your phone to the Vive via Bluetooth and see call and text notifications without removing the headset. And all users can appreciate the external camera that lets you see on the other side of the headset (which is also a feature on Samsung's Gear VR, but not the Oculus Rift itself). This too will make its way to consumers in 2016.
For GDC 2016, HTC will hold a developer event related to its headset. It isn't known what the company will bring consumers during their event for developers. But we could see new features from the headset, new launch bundles or possibly even a new game or two.
With the HTC Vive requiring a powerful PC to run alongside it as well, the headset could see just as compelling titles as Oculus's Rift. And with Valve a partner, Vive owners can look forward to playing their entire Steam library in virtual reality thanks to SteamVR's desktop theater mode. While heading into a virtual room to play Steam games may not be the most compelling case for a $800 headset, it's certainly a perk that Rift buyers may be jealous that they're without.
Sony doesn't just have futuristic holographic touchscreens they're working on. The company is also bringing consumers a virtual reality headset and it's coming this year. While we don't have a publicly known exact release date, all is likely to be revealed during Sony's March 15 GDC press conference.
Unlike the Vive and Rift, fewer details are known about the Playstation VR headset. The PS VR price has yet to be revealed, but it has the potential to be the cheapest virtual reality headset. While we may see the virtual reality helmet hover around similar prices as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive's $599 and $799, respectively, it comes with a benefit. Instead of needing to buy a gaming PC that could set buyers back around $900, PS VR hopefuls only need buy the $400 Playstation 4 to go along with it.
If the PS VR is even cheaper than Oculus's $600, even better for customers. Who knows: if Microsoft releases its VR solution or teams up with Oculus, players of both consoles could one day meet in virtual reality to face off.
Pricing and launch details are expected to come on March 15 at 2:00 pm Pacific Time (5:00 pm Eastern).
This year is the year of virtual reality and GDC knows it. So much so that the conference is rallying behind the VRDC moniker for much of this year's show. Virtual reality enthusiasts have much to look forward to.
Or, if you're more concerned about how VR will affect movies, panels like the one being held by Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic may be of interest to you.
Regardless of your preference, if you're a VR enthusiast GDC 2016 will have something for you. Unless you're looking for raunchy content in the virtual world—you'll have to travel to SXSW for that.