Vrvana’s Totem isn’t the only virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) looking for Kickstarter funding this week. Toronto-based design studio Metatecture has launched its own crowd-funding attempt for a new device known as AirVR. On first sight you’d be forgiven for thinking this was yet another smartphone-based HMD offering affordable VR ahead of the release of devices such as the Oculus Rift. That’s only half the story, however, as AirVR is actually the first VR HMD to be compatible with some of Apple’s popular iOS devices.
AirVR isn’t intended for regular Android or iOS smartphones but is instead compatible with all versions of the iPad Mini. Another version, known as AirVR+ is compatible Apple’s recently-announced iPhone 6+, an enlarged smartphone similar to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 used to run Gear VR. The HMD simply holds the user’s chosen device against a pair of aspherical lenses, leaving space for various ports, allowing users to plug in headphones and more. Essential VR compnents such as head-tracking are handled using the iPad Mini or iPhone 6+’s onboard technology.
Despite the increased space, VR experiences on the iPad Mini won’t take up the entirety of the screen. However the AirVR makes clever use of the remaining space, including a touch strip that allows players to configure a range of options with a simple interface that runs along the bottom of the screen and can be operated with the HMD still in use. Even without capitalizing on all available space, AirVR offers a 100 degree field of view (FOV) while AirVR+ offers a 90 degree FOV.
While VR content on iOS is currently sparse, AirVR will launch with a number of apps that allow users to view photos, videos and panoramic views in VR, similar to a number of apps that are similar to what can currently be seen on Android. The company will also offer an opensource AirVR software development kit (SDK) which is currently compatible with the Unity3D engine.
Metatecture is positioning AirVR as an affordable VR HMD, with Kickstarter backers able to secure a device for $49 CAD. Of course this doesn’t include the cost of an iPad Mini or iPhone 6+, which will make the prospect of the device considerably more expensive for those that don’t already own one. The first 100 to order the device will receive AirVR in December 2014, with later pledges arriving in February 2015. The company itself is hoping to raise $20,000 CAD through Kickstarter.
VRFocus will continue to follow AirVR going forward, reporting back with any updates.