How to Experience Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a dream come true to many science fiction fans. However, it’s not exactly to the same standards as many of our favorite science fiction depictions of virtual reality.  There’s no Holodeck that turns a whole room into a virtual world, at least not yet, so you’ll have to settle on the technology that is available today.

If you are in the market for a virtual reality experience, understanding the VR hardware requirements is the best place to start.


The Hardware You Need to Get Started with VR


The minimum requirements you need to experience virtual reality are a device that renders the content and a device that allows you to view the content, a VR headset.

In many cases, you can experience virtual reality through the use of your phone.  Your phone can be put into a compatible VR headset.  That’s it!  This turns your phone into a virtual reality experience.

There are some gaming systems that have headsets that don’t require your phone to work, and other headsets that require a computer.  The beauty of these systems is that they run a gamut of prices.

Let’s take a look at the current options that render the virtual content.  Without it, your VR headgear will be useless.  There are three groups that currently render virtual reality content: smartphones, gaming computers, and gaming consoles.

Smartphones for viewing virtual reality

Smartphones for virtual reality

Smartphones are the easiest virtual reality hardware system to use. The exact smartphone needed will depend on the headset that you are going to be using.

For instance, the Samsung Gear VR headset you’ll need a recent Samsung phone.  It will not work with other phones.  There are several of the new models of the Samsung Galaxy Note and the Samsung Galaxy Edge that are compatible with this headset.

The Google Cardboard headset can use a variety of smartphones, and is the only option you have if you don’t have a Samsung phone. You may want to verify that your phone can run the different apps for virtual reality that Google has available, and will fit in the headset.

There’s one thing that you need to remember when it comes to using a smartphone as your hardware for a virtual reality headset: the better the graphics and other features on your phone, the better the virtual experience will be.

The ubiquity of smartphones makes it easy and cheap to experience VR and will help mass adoption of the technology.

Playstation 4 for virtual reality

Playstation 4 for virtual reality

A Playstation 4 is the required hardware when using the recently released Playstation VR headset.  The headset only works with a PS4, so you might need to upgrade to the PS4 if you haven’t already.

This particular headset was created specifically for gamers, and with over 46 million Playstations in the world, it’s expected to be a very popular option for virtual reality.

It offers a better experience than the smartphone hardware options and doesn’t require the technical knowledge of picking up the right gaming computer for running the more expensive VR headsets.

A bonus of the PS4 is the ability to interact with the virtual reality environments via add-on accessories like a room camera and motion handles.

If you already have a PS4, this can be an awesome way to get into VR, but remember there is a possibility of limited availability of non-gaming VR content.

Gaming computers for virtual reality

Gaming computer for virtual reality

Virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive require high-powered gaming computers.  Don’t confuse the regular computers in your home to the computers that are required to run graphic-heavy VR content.

Buying a computer without the right requirements means that your virtual reality content may not run as smoothly as they should, or not at all.

Each of the headsets, and even the virtual reality programs themselves, are going to have specific requirements for what the computer is going to need to run correctly. Some of the features that you should be looking for include a top of the line graphics card, a powerful CPU, a large amount of RAM memory, an HDMI video port, two 3.0 USB ports, and at least Windows 7 or better for your operating system.

Most high-powered gaming computers that can render this software well enough for you to experience the virtual world should also have built-in fans or other cooling systems that will help to keep the unit cool as it runs.

If you’re not computer savvy, ask a computer professional and doing your homework before buying your gaming computer.

Wrapping it up

Each of these hardware options corresponds with a particular virtual reality head gear and can play a large role in which device you ultimately purchase to experience a virtual world for yourself.

It may depend on what you already have in your possession, such as a smartphone or Playstation 4, or it may depend more on your budget itself.

It may even depend on what type of experience you’re looking to get out of your virtual reality equipment since each offers different content.

Author: Becky DeForest

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