Equipment for virtual reality experiences

For anyone new to the world of virtual reality (VR) technology, the range of equipment on offer can seem quite daunting. There is also the perception that the equipment has to be prohibitively expensive when in fact, as with any product, those with a smaller budget can buy effective equipment if they don’t mind compromising on technical features.

Below we give an outline of some of the products available and also those we have been using for research within the VISTA AR project, designed to give the best-quality VR experiences.

Easily the most impressive bit of kit for visitors is a VR headset; the size alone suggests a grand experience and the immersive experience offered is new to many people.

Dr Jonathan Bird from the University of Exeter team published an article[1] in the Journal of Sport Psychology in Action concerning the use of virtual reality technology, from which the following extract is taken: VR head-mounted displays (HMDs) represent the most common type of consumer VR system. A HMD contains two screens that are presented in front of the individual’s eyes. Digital images are delivered to each screen which are rendered with appropriate perspective to account for the position of each eye. The screens are housed within a case that contains sensors that constantly track an individual’s head movements and alter the virtual environment accordingly.

Additional input devices can be used with VR HMDs. Handheld controllers contain orientation and positional tracking sensors, allowing participants to interact with virtual objects using their hands.

It is possible to classify VR HMDs according to how they are powered; mobile, standalone, and tethered. Mobile VR systems require participants to place a compatible smartphone, which provides the computing power, within the HMD in order to view content. Two popular choices include Google Daydream View and the Samsung Gear VR, which offer advanced controls, tracking sensors, and dedicated content stores. Standalone VR HMDs, such as the Oculus Go, contain an in-built display which circumvents the requirement of a smartphone when using the device. More powerful VR HMDs such as the PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and HTC Vive Pro require tethering to a secondary device that is capable of generating and displaying VR content. This is usually achieved by a “VR ready” desktop or laptop computer.

Despite the vast appeal of using VR HMDs within applied practice, there are a range of health and safety considerations that deserve attention. For example, practitioners should prioritize appropriate hygiene as VR HMDs are likely to come into contact with numerous individuals (Düking et al., 2018). Additional foam covers can also be purchased and applied to HMDs, allowing practitioners to use the same device with multiple individuals over a short time span

VR systems allow the participant to set virtual boundaries which are indicative of their physical confines, in order to reduce the likelihood of accidents occurring. However, there is still the potential for individuals to collide with objects in the physical world when using VR HMDs. Therefore, practitioners are advised to monitor users at all times in order to maintain safety.’

[1] Bird, J. M. (2019). The use of virtual reality head-mounted displays within applied sport psychology. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 11, 115–128.

Updated table with prices in GBP/EURO – June 2020

In the context of the VISTA project, research has been initially carried out on two types of headset: HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Through the period of the project, we are aiming to be able to integrate other headsets according to how the market evolves.