Those of us lucky enough to try a few different virtual reality headsets can attest that the experience can be hit or miss in terms of nausea. Some headsets have the latency and tracking problems under control while other devices are a one-way trip to the porcupine pulpit. IonVR is hoping to eliminate that stomach-churning feeling with its proprietary MotionSync technology found exclusively in the IonVR.
Currently available for pre-order for $229 with a target ship date of Q1, the IonVR headset is a mobile virtual reality device that is battery-powered and completely wireless. We had an opportunity to go hands-on (eyes-on?) with the device and learned how IonVR will stand apart from the emerging virtual reality market.
The demo unit was a pre-production 3D model that was black with crisp red accents and felt very solid in our hands. Modeled after the DK1 iteration of the Oculus Rift, it has a functional, yet boxy frame. When it ships, the IonVR will weigh 12 ounces and measure 7.3 x 5.5 x 2.6 inches which makes it a tad heavier than the Samsung Gear VR (10.9 ounces, 7.9 x 3.5 inches). The Gear VR is the better-looking of the two devices, but we're holding off making a conclusive judgement until the consumer-ready model of the IonVR are ready. The thick black bands are made from a stretchy material that helped the headset fit onto our heads, holding it securely in place.
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Similar to the Gear VR, the IonVR will have the ability to accommodate a number of mobile devices. However unlike the Gear VR, the Ion's selection is not limited to Samsung Galaxy smartphones. IonVR claims that the OEM-agnostic headset can fit devices with Super AMOLED or IPS displays as small as 4.6-inches or as large as 6-inches with a series of face places, enabling the company to add a measure of futureproofing to the device. Another cool perk comes by way of the clasp at the front of the device. The sturdy headset has a bit of flexibility, enough to let viewers use their smartphones without removing their phone's case. It's a nifty, convenient feature for anyone that's had to try to pry their smartphone out of a case.
No matter how cool the hardware. a virtual reality headset is only as good as its content. To this end, the company will be leaning on Google Cardboard's open-source programs as well as YouTube's burgeoning VR content channel for the bulk of its content. However expect some sort of aggregator with a rating system to help viewers find the programs and games worth watching and playing.In addition to Cardboard, the headset will also support Dorvious Drive and Google's Project Tango.
Using a Samsung Galaxy S6 for our demo, we watched a whimsical short of a what appeared to be a collection of someone's memories. We marveled at the texture on a passing teddy bear in a starry sky which quickly gave way to a pink sky with a large kitten playfully swatting at us as we rode by on a three-wheeler. While I noticed hardly any lag, I did see the grass on the island I eventually touched down on rendering as I approached.
One cool trick the company's founders were eager to show off was the ability for the IonVR to add stereoscopic 3D effects to the most mundane content. After capturing a quick video of us waving at the camera and returning the S6 to its place in the headset, we watched the video and sure enough there was definite depth as we watched the playback
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To show off the IonVR's full potential, the company reps set us up with a demo of Gameloft's N.O.V.A. 3. Using a regular Bluetooth PlayStation controller, we blasted our way through the board in an immersive 360-degree view, although the title currently has no V-compatible port. My only gripe with the presentation lay in the controller sensitivity setting which caused it to spin too quickly. Even with our usually light touch, we found ourselves whirling around a lot, which could potentially summon that nauseous feeling. I'm not sure if the MotionSync technology kicked in to prevent any stomach gurgling, but typically we're not one to experience motion sickness of any sort.
When it ships in Q1, the IonVR headset will be powered by a measly 2 AAA batteries but promises over three-hours of continuous use. We're eager to put this to the test once we receive a review unit.
It just goes to show you that as the world of consumer virtual reality approaches, the winner is by no means set. While Samsung and Oculus will definitely make waves with the Gear VR and the Oculus Rift, there's still room for innovators like IonVR to stake a viable claim in the market. At $229 the headset could become the headset of choice for non-Samung Galaxy owners searching for a multifaceted device that can deliver those big VR oohs and ahhs while also adapting traditional media.