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Razer's open-source headset aims to disrupt virtual reality

Gordon Mah Ung | Jan. 7, 2015
Just in case Facebook doesn't do the right thing with Oculus Rift, Razer's offering an alternative: Open Source VR that could democratize virtual reality.

razer OSVR HMD

Do you trust Facebook to do the right thing with Oculus Rift? Would you trust any multi-billion dollar company to so thoroughly dominate a new technology that there's no room for competitors to maneuver?

Probably not.

But that's what Razer hopes to short-circuit with its OSVR, or Open Source Virtual Reality push: a completely open-source approach to both the hardware and software used in VR head mounted displays (HMD) that, if it works, stands to democratize VR.

The first component of OSVR are detailed plans on how to build your own OSVR HMD. From the optics to the electronics package and the dimensions that will let anyone with access to a 3D printer, eBay and a lot of of patience to literally build your own VR headset.

If you can't though, Razer says it'll actually sell OSVR Hacker Dev Kits for $200  as early as this June. 

Razer OSVR HMD Back
GORDON MAH UNG. Razer's OSVR HMD features a 1080p screen and with the plans and specs being published, you can build your own.

Specs for the OSVR Hacker Dev Kits aren't bad. It'll include a 5.5-inch 1920x1080 screen, an integrated accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a compass. Much of the electronics are actually kept in a "belt box" to lower the weight. In fact, Razer said the OSVR HDK's should be one of the lightest if not the lightest HMDs out there when released.

That's comparable spec-wise to today's Oculus Rift DK2 but Oculus already has a Crescent Bay prototype that features an even higher resolution screen as well as audio support.

Razer said comparing the two is silly though, and is adamant that the OSVR and Oculus Rift aren't even competitors. In fact, apps and games for the OSVR will also work on the Oculus Rift, Razer told us.

I love the smell of democracy in the morning
Still, I find it hard to believe the two will co-exist peacefully. If Razer's OSVR goes anywhere, it will certainly pose a threat to any other HMD hardware and software. But the fact that the OSVR is completely transparent in specs and parts does make it truly disruptive to VR. To draw a software analogy, it would be, simply, as though you could travel back in time and offer a free open source operating system on the same day Microsoft released Windows.

To be fair, Oculus Rift open-sourced the firmware, schematics, and mechanics for its first-generation developer's kit, but only after that HMD was already obsoleted by the second-gen model--and there's no certainty the company would do the same for newer models.


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