With lens that look like they belong at the bottom of a soda bottle instead of in a virtual reality kit, Wearality Sky isn't going to win many beauty contests. But the low-cost kit for adding VR capabilities to your smartphone, a la Google Cardboard, will give you an expansive and beautiful view.
Wearality Sky is a pair of plastic goggles you attach to any smartphone with a 5- to 6-inch screen. Look through those large lenses at any Google Cardboard app running on your phone, and you'll be treated to a virtual reality view that's free of the blurring and cut-off images you might get from similar VR kits.
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You can credit the curved Frensel lenses that Wearality uses with the Sky for its unique point of view. They're always in focus and help provide a widescreen 150-degree field of view. Typically, VR viewers in this class have a field of view of 90 to 100 degrees.
And you really notice that improved field of view when you hold up a Wearality Sky to your eyes. I'm impressed by Google Cardboard and its ability to let me explore virtual worlds by tilting my head and looking from side to side. But when I tried out a Cardboard viewer at last month's Google I/O, I found the images of museum exhibits and city streets to be a little blurry around the edges.
That wasn't a problem when I looked through a Wearality Sky at this week's Augmented World Expo and went on a virtual roller coaster ride. The images were crisp and clear, filling my entire field of vision, even as I looked in different directions to watch the roller coaster tracks whizzing past me. The Wearality Sky also let me look at clean, seamless images shot with a Ricoh Theta spherical camera.
Wearality Sky boasts another advantage over rival VR kits. It can also fold up and fit into your pocket. However, during my limited time with the device, I worried about snapping it into pieces.
Wearality topped its $100,000 goal on Kickstarter and is now looking to ship out the Sky to early backers by October. When it's available commercially, look for the Wearality Sky to cost in the $60 to $70 range. And Wearality's makers are continuing to think big. They're working on another version of the VR kit with wider lens to provide a 180-degree field of view.
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.
I've read about some other VR headsets for smartphones that are attempting to improve their visual experience.... many with adjustable lenses. I don't think I'll ever get to try out all the VR headsets, but I'm especially excited about the Powis ViewR from http://powiscustom.com/products/powis-virtual-reality-kit. It has dual adjustable lenses, which is good since my eyesight varies in each eye. It's a great feature to have.