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Virtual reality for beginners: Everything you need to know to wrap your head around VR

Hayden Dingman | July 20, 2015
Two years and five iterations of the Oculus Rift later, it's finally time to start writing about virtual reality as a thing that's happening, not something that will happen. Less than six months from now the first of the heavy hitter consumer-grade virtual reality sets will hit market--Valve and HTC's Vive headset--and a few months after that we'll see the Rift finally do the same.

Thus, we can expect the Rift headset to cost about $350 to 400. That's both in line with the cost of the first two development kits and Oculus's past spitballing. That figure would include the headset itself, an Xbox One controller, and the position-tracking sensor.

Oculus Touch is a bit more difficult to pin down, but we can make an estimate based on the price of the since-discontinued Razer Hydra motion controller, which ran for $140. I'd expect Touch to come in around the same price point (or less, if Oculus hopes to sell more units and incentivize development).

So we're up to about $500-550 for the full Rift experience, sans PC itself. The Vive is pretty similar, although you have to factor in the two Lighthouse base stations Valve uses for position tracking (instead of the Oculus's single sensor). Let's say $600 for the HTC Vive?

Yeah, it's expensive. And those are just my own estimated figures--we could be looking at $700 or even $800 entry pricing on release, though the higher the price goes the fewer units will sell, and Oculus desperately needs units to sell in order to convince the public that VR is a viable field this time around.

And that doesn't include the cost of a gaming PC, as I mentioned. For the Oculus's recommended specs you're probably looking at a machine in the $800-900 range (depending on whether you already have a Windows license, a monitor, et cetera).

Bottom line

Even with that pricing hurdle, I'll be damned if virtual reality isn't exhilarating. I've been playing games for pretty much my entire life, and I don't think there's been a technology this exciting since we made the 2D/3D switch in the 90s. Virtual reality has the potential to revolutionize the way we play, especially as it gets more sophisticated.

And virtual reality could revolutionize not just the way we play, but the way we chat with friends, the way we experience films, the way we hold business meetings and conceptualize "the office." Virtual reality could be the next big thing.

The question is whether everyday people--people like you and me--will be interested in trying it.


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