LAS VEGAS - Watch out Samsung; there might be a new sheriff in town. USens, a technology company that specializes in virtual and augmented reality as well as head and hand-tracking has combined all of its talents into one headset. Dubbed the Impression Pi, the commercial-use mobile headset is set to ship in Summer 2016 with a starting price of $149.
The Impression Pi's white plastic frame and stretchy black headbands are similar to the Samsung Gear VR. However the USens headset is compatible with most current Android smartphones on the market, which means everyone can get a piece of the VR pie. Even better, the device tracks your hand and head movements, all but eliminating the need for a controller -- Bluetooth or otherwise.
Although the headset can accommodate most Android phones, USens will also be offering a version of the Impression Pi that will include its own display -- no phone necessary. This top-tier device will be priced around $350, comes with a built-in display and can be tethered to a PC for a higher quality experience.
During my demo on the CES Unveiled show floor, I took an educational trip around our solar system. Pointing my finger at a specific planet displayed a variety of facts such as the median radius and the time it takes the celestial body takes to complete its orbit. Pointing with two fingers let me watch the chosen planet spin on its axis. A push forward with my hand sent the solar system barreling away from me while a pulling motion reversed the direction.
The image quality didn't compare to that of the software offered in the Oculus Store for the Gear VR. However I didn't notice any latency as I was spinning and literally reaching for the stars. While USens could have demoed a game, the company is looking to expand the realms of AR and VR beyond gaming into more educational and medical fare.
The Impression Pi is yet another exciting glimpse into the rapidly growing worlds of AR and VR. The integration of so many vital technologies places the hardware right into the thick of competition with the bigger names in the industry including Microsoft, Oculus and PlayStation to name a few. However a piece of hardware is only as good as its software, so it will be up to developers to help USens rise to the top.