What do you love to see more of? Great content maximising the hardware you already own or cutting-edge technology that allows developers to dream bigger and better than ever? In an ideal world, it would be somewhere in the middle, but inevitably what tends to happen is a deluge of one or the other. Popular VR devices like Meta Quest 2 and Valve Index have been around for several years now, and there’s some amazing content out there. However, they’re also starting to get old – in VR terms, at least – and we’re on the cusp of a new explosion in XR gaming Hardware.
If you didn’t realise it already, we’re currently in a new moment of renewed excitement for virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality gaming and productivity. Whether you’re looking for new entertainment possibilities or ways to communicate, there is a plethora of new and upcoming devices to suit most needs. How well they’ll be delivered, received and supported is another matter entirely.
XR’s future is now
This new spate of immersive, XR hardware really began with Meta Quest Pro. The mixed reality (MR) device arrived at the end of 2022 to great fanfare yet didn’t (or couldn’t) live up to the hype. Meta’s flagship headset could merge a digital world with your real one, thus allowing games to make use of your entire living room or provide multiple screens for enhanced productivity.
Or that was the potential at least. Yet in this new era, this is a difficult sell…but not impossible. Even more importantly, a growing number of companies see this as an important sector worth developing. HTC’s VIVE XR Elite is another in this cutting-edge tranche of devices dedicated to MR and its budding productivity prospects. That’s acutely seen in the new VIVE XR Elite Business edition.
If you needed further proof that MR shouldn’t be swept under the rug just look at Apple. For years the Cupertino-based giant has stayed relatively quiet on the subject. That was until WWDC when the Apple Vision Pro was unveiled. A powerhouse headset set for release in 2024 for a substantial £3,499 USD, expectations are high, very high. And so far, early hands-on articles have been positive.
Exciting as this may be, all of these devices, Quest Pro, VIVE XR Elite and Vision Pro are expensive. You’re not going to casually buy one for a new gaming experience. That’s where the like of Quest 3, Lynx R1 and others come in.
Meta’s Quest 3 announcement arrived just before Apple’s, seemingly trying to dampen its new rival’s announcement. Quest 3 is a very different beast, however. Starting at $499, this is far more consumer-oriented with a huge catalogue of VR games to pull from. It also does MR, and could very well outclass the Quest Pro in some respects. Set to arrive in late 2023, the Quest 3 could very well become the defacto headset XR developers will want to work on as sales will likely be higher than most rivals.
On the other hand, there are some plucky indie tech companies looking to offer similar devices. These are especially interesting for those who don’t want to set up Meta accounts. Firstly, you have the Lynx R1. This mixed-reality headset started life as a Kickstarter project and has begun shipping to early backers. The brainchild of Stan Larroque, the Lynx R1 is an open platform, so it supports initiatives like OpenXR which smooth out the development process across multiple devices. In short, you can play your SteamVR library on it with no problem. Lynx R1 should be going on sale this year, with a final price still to be disclosed – the current dev kit edition sells for $849, so it should be less than that.
Or then there’s Somnium VR1 headset. Even more of an outsider as it is still in development, metaverse company Somnium Space decided to get into hardware and build a purely PC-focused VR headset. A tethered beast with some impressive specs, one of its core selling points is the customisation options. Thus allowing the VR community to mod and tinker however they please. No prices at the moment, a release is slated for 2023 as well.
And let’s not forget about Bigscreen Beyond, a highly diminutive headset from Bigscreen Inc. Better known for its PC mirroring app of the same name that’s become an entertainment app, the company is trying a unique tact with its design. Every headset listed here is built around the “one size fits all” methodology. Bigscreen Beyond doesn’t as comfort is key, so it is custom-built for you. That means fitted to the shape of your face and sized for your eyes. That comes at a price, £1,149.00 GBP to be exact, with pre-orders open now for a late 2023 delivery.
XR Gaming Hardware bonanza!
After all of these, that’s not counting the likes of PSVR 2, Tilt Five, PICO 4 and others already on the market.
What this all boils down to is consumer choice. Whether you’ve got the cash for the Apple Vision Pro or fancy a discounted Quest 2, the current and short-term market has an abundance of possibilities.
Which will you choose? Let us know in the comments below.