Ever since Oculus broke the barrier of what’s cool and fresh in VR, everyone has set their engines full speed ahead to show that they aren’t the only ones that can pull it off. One of these companies to do just that, is Zeiss.
A company so well known for their lenses in everything from cameras to telescopes to binoculars and so much more, Zeiss brings one more product to the table with the VR One headset. A virtual/augmented reality headset that works with the smartphone in your pocket to do everything the more expensive headsets can, at a much better price tag. Zeiss rushed one over to us so that we may share our opinion of what this headset can accomplish!
Before we dig too deep, the best way to explain our impression of the VR One was that this review was supposed to be published last week. However, it was a little delayed due to additional testing that needed to be done (by everyone, repeatedly).
So lets take a look inside the box. When you crack it open, you will find the headset, a strap to add to go over the top of your head for extra support, a tray for your phone (at the moment, one of two you can chose from, which we will explain in a second) and some various paperwork along with a small box you can fold together.
At this moment, there are two separate smartphone trays you can choose from, one being the iPhone 6 and the other is the Samsung Galaxy S5 (*a phone is obviously not included–you have to supply that yourself). The one sent to us was the S5 since we have more S5’s readily laying around to test with than the iPhone 6. However, after the conclusion of our tests, we have ordered the tray for the iPhone 6 to test out as well. We will make sure to update you if we find anything different while using it.
There are no other trays available at this moment, but Zeiss said more are in the works and they are also working to provide downloadable data in the future so that owners can 3D print their own. Now that was something exciting to discover, especially as 3D printing is starting to becoming increasingly popular.
We did however, test a number of scenarios out where we placed other models into the S5 tray just to see what would happen. Some were too bulky and wouldn’t fit but some slid in just fine, even though there was play in the tray causing the phone to slide around a little. We placed both the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the S4 into the tray and both were successful. Given, not all apps worked as there were a few glitches. One glitch was that in some apps, the gyro wasn’t responding, thus prevent you from looking around and controlling the app. Another glitch was on one of the phones, the camera on the rollercoaster app was rotating very slowly on its own, forcing you to continuously turn your chair around in order to follow the coaster in the direction of the tracks.
It’s best to assume you will be safest using the S5 or iPhone 6 “or newer models” vs trying to sneak in older phones like we did. Although, the fact that 80% of the material still functioned on the older phones, that still made an impression of flexibility.
Technically, as long as you have a phone that will fit flush in one of the trays, is iOS or Android (and similar specs or better than the currently supported models) and 4.7 to 5.2 inches, you will be able to use it with the headset.
There are no wires or batteries (other than your phone) to worry about as the unit is fully mobile and simply relies on the phone to function as your screen. You start off by downloading a few apps. The first app would be the “VR One Media Launcher” that starts you off with a 3D space scene with other options/apps floating around to choose from. Among those floating apps you will find the “VR One Cinema App” and the “VR One AR App”, as well as a handful of other things to play with. Once you have those first three apps, you are ready to begin testing the headset out.
Once you have launched the media launcher app, the screen will split into two halves. You then place the phone in the tray and slide the tray into the front of the headset where the two halves will appear to have combined into one 3D view. Now the headset it ready for use. You can look around and launch one of the other two apps you downloaded, or you can select from the other app options floating around. You do so by looking at them. In the center of the screen, there is a small white dot that functions as your center point that you use to select those options with.
The apps you can choose from will either allow you to play with the VR (virtual reality) side of things or the AR (augmented reality) side. There are plenty of apps to choose from, including one where you can fly around on a dragon, slowly fly a spaceship around a futuristic city (kind of a soft demo), shoot at some zombies and so much more.
The headset itself feels a little heavy at first, but once you add on the strap to go over the top of your head, it doesn’t really bother you. This is going to be the case with any VR headset though. It is bulky, but again, this is going to be the same with any VR headset. Once it is on your head, the weight doesn’t seem to bother you much as the screen immediately captures your attention. Also, if wear eyewear to see clearly, you can wear your glasses while using the headset (which is highly important as it doesn’t limit customer niche Zeiss has to provide to).
The quality is quite impressive when using the headset for VR. We tested out a number of applications and found most of them to be entertaining. The first of which was the Zombie Shooter VR app where you follow a character around as he shoots at zombies. You can’t control the character really as you have no controller to go with the setup, but you do control where he fires, by looking into direction you want him to shoot in (with the center of the screen as your crosshair).
We then took a VR roller coaster for a ride which ended up being everyone’s favorite. We passed the headset around and placed the challenge of not moving your head any once the coaster hit any drops. Most failed that challenge as it really plays tricks on your mind. You can look around to the sides, above and underneath the coaster–just like you would if you truly were sitting there. Standing up was difficult as your mind can panic a little once the coaster starts doing anything squirrely (typically causing you to want to reach out for something to brace your balance with).
The Cinema App is fun as it places you in a virtual theater where you can pull up any video stored on your phone and watch it. It appears as though you are doing so in an animated movie theater with seats around you. You can also center the movie as well if you don’t want to look around. It also supports SBS (side-by-side) formatted 3D movie files (make sure the file-name contains “SBS”). We haven’t had the chance to test 3D movies out, but will update as soon as we do.
The AR app was the least favorite in the group although still very entertaining. The headset comes with a small box you can fold together that has various designs on each side. We immediately knew this would have something to do with the AR app, as the box served no other apparent function. Sure enough, when using the AR app, each side of the box triggers a different scene.
Basically, when using the headset for AR, it triggers the camera of your phone so that the headset can see everything in front of you. It then projects things into your environment creating an AR experience. When staring at the box, different things happen as you rotate it around. A 3D warrior girl can popup standing on top, or a girl that looks like something out of resident evil wielding a gun. At one point, a force field forms around a section of the box with small ships flying around attacking it (this looked especially cool).
The only issue however, is that using the camera to pass everything in front of you to your eyes does not work as well as using something like a normal pair of glasses like Google Glass or Microsoft’s upcoming HoloLens. Your depth perception is badly thrown off and the refresh rate of your phone’s camera is far below what you eyes are hungry for, resulting in a grainy, dizzy and sometimes nauseous experience.
There was no feeling of nausea while using the headset for the VR apps, except for those who get motion sickness really easy–which is expected to begin with, so fault on Zeiss. The only feeling you get is an “elevator feeling” or the feeling you get when you step off of a boat you have spent a lot of time on. It takes a few minutes sometimes to get your bearings back. It truly feels realistic at times.
Of course, the quality and resolution of the apps are limited by the developer of such apps and the resolution of your phone and camera, but we are sure it will only get better from here.
There is a lot of potential in these headsets. Once more apps begin to surface, you will most likely find a lot of games that you will be able to control eventually with an externally connected remote allowing it to essentially become a fully mobile gaming experience. Also, watching movies close up like that can only get better as screen technologies improve.
It would be a lot of fun to play a VR/3D rendition of Pacman with these. Running around the halls and corners of the gameboard as if it were a game of Doom or Wolfenstein, dodging ghosts and gobbling every sphere in sight. Crash Bandicoot would be a lot of fun as well (until you start spinning around at least).
Also, imagine playing your favorite racing games like Need for Speed or Forza while being able to look around your windows and mirrors as if you were actually there driving in the race. Or flying in the cockpit of a spaceship in a massive open-world MMORPG.
Another application would be to bring the VR headset into the hobbiest world as well. For example, it would be a lot of fun to break out the DJI Phantom we have at the office and use the VR One as a FPV (first person view) of the drone as it flies around. I am sure that it won’t be long until someone figures that out and lands a functioning app in the app markets.
The options are truly endless as VR makes a break through into our world of gaming and entertainment.
We had a lot of fun with the VR One headset and look forward to testing it out some more as new apps emerge onto the market. We didn’t like the AR aspect of it, so that dropped the score a little as well as the fact that it is still in the beginning stages of making an impact on the market. However, AR can be reserved for clear-lens solutions like the HoloLens as headsets like the VR One slowly dominates the VR world of games and other applications (ie, the idea of using it with a drone). We think the VR One is one of the top VR candidates we have tested in todays market, and decided to give it a 8.5 out of 10, with the potential of growing as additional features open up (ie, throw a controller in the mix and you instantly reach 9 to 9.5. Of course, since there are still a lot other apps we haven’t tested with it, the score may still go up with or without the addition of a controller! It’s best to call it a living score for now…
With such endless potential, what would you do with the VR One? Let us know by commenting below (and try to keep it G-rated…).
UPDATE (March/2015): it is available on Amazon now…(currently Samsung S5 model only). We assume the price will come down on the Amazon side as it finds more exposure:
|Optics||Leading-edge optical design and ZEISS precision lenses for ultimate immersive visual experience|
|Supported devices||Smartphones with display size between 4.7 and 5.2 inches|
|See-through front shield||Enabling smartphone cameras for augmented reality apps|
|Eyeglasses||Eyeglasses can be worn while using the headset|
|Distance between wearers’ eyes supported||53 – 77 mm|
|Field of view||Field of view of approx. 100°|
|Audio||Ports to plug in the smartphone audio and charging connectors|
|Smartphone tray||Innovative slide for exact positioning of the smartphone.|
|Air ventilation||Ventilation openings to ease airflow and prevent fogging of lenses|
|Tracking sensors||Internal tracking by smartphone sensors|
|3D support||Stereo side-by-side format for 3D pictures & videos|
|SDK||An open source SDK as well as the documentation are available to software developers. For technical questions, please follow the link to the StackOverflow FORUM.|
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.