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The Early Days of VR (Oculus Rift + HTC Vive + Computer Power + Google Cardboard)

Oculus Rift w/ Controllers : Image via Link
HTC Vive System : Image via Link

The Oculus Rift & HTC vive are at the forefront of consumer VR experiences today, but desktop gaming machines + wires = expensive & cumbersome while the wireless Gear VR & Google Cardboard are childish by comparison. Lets have a look.... 

The recently announced Cyberpower gaming PC $499 uses a frame duplication insertion so the user experiences a clean shutter free experience even though frames were dropped, something called "asynchronous spacewarp". To get the full frame HD experience you still need a more powerful gaming machine!

Samsung Smartphone Powered Gear VR : Image via Link
The Samsung Gear VR allow your newer Samsung smartphone to become a wireless VR device, but the experience it provides is less detailed and similar to Google cardboard. Smartphones do not store enough energy, the chip sets are not powerful enough, and the overall computational power platform capacity is insufficient to drive an HD VR experience. The major advantage being the wireless nature of these face mounted phone powered viewers, which gives users more freedom to experience VR in more places without a wired connection to a gaming desktop!

Google Cardboard : Image via Link 
Computer Power

A Galaxy S7 (the one that does not explode), is roughly a 10w computer that often runs at less than 1w to keep the fan-less design cool enough for safety and longevity of the chipsets, while providing decent single change run time. The battery in the S7 stores about 3000mah @ 3.8v or  ~11watt hours of power. While this powerful modern smartphone is amazing in many technical real world regards, it is not powerful enough as a computer to drive a full HD VR experience, and even if it was, the small energy capacity of the battery in the S7 would drain extremely quickly! 11wh is enough to power an 11w computer for 1 hour for example, roughly the equivalent of extreme hard core gaming on a phone with a power hungry game app.

Desktop gaming PC power by comparison to the S7 is substantially greater given a typical 750w power supply running on grid energy, GPU designs in the 165w range, and CPU designs in the 70-130w range. In terms of raw computational power, desktops give the best value! Smartphones are the most expensive computing platforms by comparison. Laptops offer an intermediate computer power value, but the current executive board at Oculus does not believe people will use laptops to power their Oculus Rift, at least not a significant number of people!

MSI backpack Oculus Rift System : Image via Link
Backpack computers give users the ability to brink desktop class gaming power into mobile use case scenarios, allowing a full HD VR experience to happen away from power outlets. The backpack can carry more battery energy storage capacity, and has room for full sized graphics cards, desktop CPU + memory configurations, and main-boards with IO speeds fast enough to pump the full VR experience. Oculus's executive board is also skeptical about backpack computers becoming popular for Rift power, noting that only a small niche of gaming PC geeks will even buy a backpack computer in the first place. This has not kept HP or MSI from building backpack computers!

Note 3 + CardBoard VR

Meg & I have tried VR using a promotional Google Cardboard  Verizon Wireless Star Wars themed viewer that my sister got for me from one of her old colleagues. Essentially two plastic lenses mounted in a cardboard housing that you hold against your face. We used a Galaxy Note 3 (disused older smartphone in our collection) to power the cardboard viewer. The experience feels like a video game from the min 1990's, but 3D and immersive. The Cardboard app is a battery draining monster, it pumps the Note 3 so hard that it drains roughly 1% per minute out of the older battery, and the Note 3 becomes toasty hot in about 10min. None of the games we have tried were able to keep out attention for longer than about 10 min, so we wrote off VR as a cheap party trick accessory experience, fun, but nothing earth shattering. We are both eye candy enjoyers of AAA title sci-fi movie CGI, and play Xbox One sporadically to game Destiny or Forza Horizon 2 and most recently Quantum Break! This high bar computer generated imaging experiences make the Google Cardboard Note 3 combo seem kinda childish by comparison.

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