Virtual Reality has finally arrived as a consumer phenomenon. After several false starts in the twentieth century, it appears that this immersive technology is here to stay. However, investing in a high end VR headset such as an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive can end up costing you anywhere between $600 to $800 USD, not including the cost of a high performance gaming PC. How do you know which platform is right for you and your needs?
As the founder of Virtual Reality development studio LipSync VR, it’s my responsibility to be on the cutting edge of this industry. As such, I own all of the latest VR toys, including both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. In addition to spending lots of time using these platforms myself, I’ve also demoed these devices to hundreds of people and identified numerous strengths and weaknesses. In this piece, I’ll share four compelling reasons why the Oculus Rift might be a better option for you.
Reason 1: You wear glasses
Many people, including this author, despise the feeling of contact lenses on their eyes. If you absolutely must wear glasses to be able to see anything properly, the Oculus Rift is definitely the better option. The Rift headset offers ample space between the lenses and the user’s face to snugly fit a pair of glasses. While it’s possible to fit a pair of glasses into the HTC Vive headset, users complained that their glasses were constantly being pushed against their eyes and face, which created discomfort and made it difficult to wear the headset for long periods of time.
The Rift offers some other advantages in regards to comfort. The headset is noticeably lighter than the Vive, which makes it easier to wear for extended sessions. Many users, including this author, also found that the adjustable headphones attached to the Rift headset provided a better user experience, as the earbuds that come standard with the HTC Vive can be prone to falling out, particularly in more active games that require lots of movement.
Reason 2: Your apartment is tiny
The single biggest differentiator between the Rift experience and Vive experience is the disparity in positional tracking. That is, the HTC Vive sensors allow room-scale experiences whereby users can walk around an area of over 10x10 feet and feel truly immersed. A demonstration of this capability is shown in this video:
In contrast, the Rift seems to offer a more limited experience where users are confined to a smaller playspace and must face the sensors at all times. While this seems like a disadvantage, the reality is that many apartment-dwelling urbanites lack the space available to achieve true room-scale VR experiences. Nothing removes you from a feeling of true immersion like accidentally kicking a table or walking into a wall.
Ultimately, room-scale VR immersion is only valuable if you have the space for room-scale VR. If you lack the space, it might make sense to opt for the Rift.
Reason 3: Oculus Touch Controllers
In a word: intuitive. The hand-held Oculus Touch controllers, pictured below, are phenomenal and improve the overall user experience on the Rift.
It’s a pleasure to cradle Touch controllers in your hand. It would seem that Oculus was inspired by controllers on gaming consoles such as the Xbox and Playstation and adapted them, with great success, for an immersive medium. In contrast, the Vive controllers feel relatively heavy, unwieldy, and unnecessarily large.
Reason 4: Price
A major incentive to purchase the Rift over the Vive: Oculus recently slashed the price of its Rift+Touch package down to $598 USD. This makes it approximately $200 cheaper than the Vive, which is a pretty dramatic difference. For budget-conscious VR enthusiasts, this is a no brainer.
It’s difficult to determine which of these two platforms is the “best”; what constitutes an advantage for some customers, given their unique preferences, can be perceived as a disadvantage by other customers with different priorities. Regardless, talking about VR is like “dancing about architecture”: it’s impossible to make informed decisions about these platforms if you haven’t actually tried them out for yourself.
Thus, aspiring VR users should come to their own conclusions by trying a demo of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift at a local Microsoft store.
In part II of this series, I will share three reasons why you should purchase an HTC Vive instead of the Oculus Rift.
Michael Park is the CEO and Founder of LipSync VR, a Virtual Reality development studio based in San Francisco and Hong Kong.