The first modern virtual reality (VR) headset to launch as a consumer product is not what you might be expecting. It’s not an elaborate monitor that requires a PC or console to produce an image, nor is it a self-contained unit. It doesn’t house a processor, a screen or any kind of electronic components at all. What it does offer however, is a place to insert your smartphone.
Many will compare the Durovis Dive to the Altergaze, and they wouldn’t be wrong in doing so. It’s two different takes on the exact same idea. The difference is that the Durovis Dive is a product available from a company that intends to corner the market, the Altergaze is instead pursuing the crowd-funding path in order to create an open source package that consumers can configure and manufacture themselves. Two very different takes on the same idea, then.
The fact that the Durovis Dive is already available will surely hinder the Altergaze’s intentions. It’s a low cost casing that is lightweight and comfortable, and ably performs the job it’s set out to do: deliver stereoscopic 3D images. The user can adjust the headband to fit, the lenses for both distance and eye width, and the padding in order to make it suitable for their device. Everything else is handled by the smartphone itself.
The quality of the experience will obviously vary depending on the smartphone you have available, but the Durovis Dive does offer compatibility with a wide range of handsets. Furthermore, there is plenty of free content available even at this point. VRFocus in particularly enjoyed a simple rollercoaster video – much like with the Oculus Rift’s own virtual theme park attraction – though the lenses did require an inordinate amount of adjustment to align perfectly. More easily configured as a simple videogame known as The Height, in which the player must traverse a tight and unforgiving terrain in first-person while collecting small cubes of light. Simple? Yes. Addictive? Most certainly.
The amount of content is only likely to increase of course, however the support for various devices will not. The Durovis Dive is a product of fixed specification, while the Altergaze can be customised by the end user. It’s a strange situation to be in – one entirely new to the videogames industry – but at this moment in time the Durovis Dive has the edge for two reasons: it already has content and it’s available to purchase. Given that the Altergaze still has a way to go after achieving it’s Kickstarter goal – let alone reaching the consumer market – this headstart cannot be underestimated.