The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset isn’t even available for consumers to buy yet but here comes the cut-price competition… While the Rift development kit will set you back $300 — and still requires a PC to do the gaming horse-work — vrAse, a soon-to-be-launched-on-Kickstarter project, is approaching virtual reality from another direction. It wants to turn your existing smartphone into a pair of wearable virtual reality/3D specs. And do so for as little as £48/$75.
Since high-end smartphones are powerful computers in their own right, and come furnished with cameras front and back, why not just stick your phone right on your face, right? Provided you don’t mind looking like Mr Phone Face, of course. vrAse is one part Oculus Rift, one part Google Glass, one part sci-fi ski goggles — with gaming, 3D movie-watching and augmented reality use-cases envisaged by its creators, assuming they can get developers to make the apps to go with their goggles.
At launch there’s clearly not going to be a lot of ready to rock apps but they say they will offer demo content to show off vrAse’s AR and 3D gaming capabilities. Plus, any movies already made for 3D can also be downloaded or streamed in Side by Side format (SBS) for viewing on vrAse. And films and games can also apparently be converted to SBS for viewing on the device.
vrAse is effectively a toughened smartphone case, attached to a pair of wearable goggles. Your existing smartphone slides inside the case so you’re looking directly at its screen through vrAse’s dual lenses — which generate the 3D/immersion effect. And that’s pretty much it. Compatible smartphones at launch are the iPhone 5, HTC One, Xperia Z, Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 2. In future the creators say they will make it compatible with any smartphone.
How immersive will vrAse be? That’s the key question. And the answer will depend (in part) on the smartphone screen you’re pairing it with. The higher the screen res, the better looking the picture will presumably be. Beyond that, vrAse’s creators aren’t going into detail about what sort of field of vision to expect from vrAse so it’s hard to say how it will stack up against the likes of Oculus Rift. It is looking considerably cheaper to buy, however, so set your expectations accordingly. Update: vrAse says the range of vision is configurable but currently the device offers more than 105 degrees of binocular vision field.
vrAse’s makers are hoping to raise £55,000 via Kickstarter. If they hit their target they’re aiming to ship to backers in February. Their crowdfunding campaign kicks off on Saturday.