HTC Vive vs. Oculus Rift vs. Windows Mixed Reality: What’s the difference?

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Don’t be fooled: Windows Mixed Reality headsets are just VR headsets

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Hands-on: Oculus Santa Cruz proves stunning wireless VR isn’t a pipe dream

Going into my hands-on demo with Oculus’ Project Santa Cruz headset, think I forgot how it felt to be surprised by virtual reality. We’re coming up on three years since the last major advance in VR, which I’m going to peg as the first time I tried the HTC Vive’s room-scale experience. Since then we’ve seen a few refinements—Oculus Rift’s built-in headphones and lighter form factor, the remarkably comfortable and intuitive Oculus Touch controllers—but the fundamental tech has stayed pretty similar to the Vive demo I saw in 2015.

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Oculus Go is a standalone $199 VR headset that doesn’t need a PC, a phone, or wires

“The sweet spot.” It sounds like that’s going to be VR’s new focus, as we head into Oculus Connect’s fourth annual iteration. And what is that sweet spot, exactly? Not mobile VR, not PC-based VR, but a blend of both. No wires, but the same high-fidelity experience people get from the Oculus Rift.

That’s still probably a ways off, but Oculus took its first steps in that direction at Connect, announcing its new $199 Oculus Go headset, plus giving us our first look of the upcoming “Santa Cruz” prototype with inside-out position tracking.

Let’s dig in.

[ Further reading: HTC Vive vs. Oculus Rift vs. Windows Mixed Reality: What’s the difference? ]

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Oculus Rift + Touch bundle price slashed to $400 as VR inches toward affordability

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Google’s tweaked Daydream View VR headset doubles down on virtual tourism

Google’s Daydream View is only a year old, but it’s already receiving a minor refresh to make one of the best mobile VR headsets even better as Google invests in virtual tourism.

The tweaks on the hardware side are minor, but welcome. Most notably, the new Daydream View includes updated high-performance lenses that promise better visual quality and a wider field of view—though Google didn’t delve into hard numbers. The original model had a ho-hum 90 degree FOV. As far the visuals go, it makes sense for Google to stay vague there, as the Daydream View requires a Daydream VR-enabled smartphone like the new Pixel 2 to act as its brains and screen, and display quality varies from device to device.

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HTC Vive buyers now get Fallout 4 VR for free

Fallout 4 VR. Doom VR. Skyrim VR. Whether or not they turn out good, it’s safe to say Bethesda’s upcoming slate of VR titles mark virtual reality’s biggest software launch since…well, ever. Three well-regarded and “full-length” games, all ported in full—and exclusive to the HTC Vive, at least on the PC side.

HTC’s taking full advantage of the situation, announcing today that from now until some as-yet-unknown time in the future, all new Vive headset purchases will be bundled with a free copy of Fallout 4 VR. Given that the hardware currently retails for $100 more than the Oculus Rift after this summer’s price cuts, a $60 freebie should help take some of the sting out of the price and help the Vive compete against Oculus Rift and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

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Intel kills its standalone Project Alloy VR headset, as PC-powered VR wins out

Intel has decided to halt development on its Project Alloy standalone VR headset, executives said, as a standalone headset proved to be no match for PC-powered VR.

In August 2016, Intel launched Project Alloy in conjunction with Microsoft, as one of the first instances of making the technology behind virtual reality into an open-source platform, sort of like the PC. But Intel decided not to go forward with the project for two reasons, according to Kim Pallister, the director of the Virtual Reality Center of Excellence at Intel: lack of customer interest, and a discovery that a self-contained headset just didn’t offer the performance of a PC that could be plugged into a wall.

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Intel may tie future Core CPUs to the VR trend with dedicated features

Intel is exploring ways to accelerate virtual reality by building dedicated logic into its integrated Core microprocessors that would improve VR on even basic notebooks. Comments from Kim Pallister, the director of the Virtual Reality Center of Excellence at Intel, in a short interview on the eve of the Virtual Reality Developers Conference (VRDC) in San Francisco, imply that these features are in the design stage. It’s not clear when those improvements will roll out to the computing community at large, however.

Virtual reality remains a hot topic among chip companies like Intel, which see the demands of VR—high video resolutions at high frame rates, with sensor inputs across six degrees of freedom requiring even more computational horsepower—as a driver for new, more powerful chip architectures. But there are limitations: With clock speeds effectively capped at a bit faster than 4 GHz, Intel doesn’t necessarily have the horsepower in its Core chips available to power VR. And even if it did, the trend toward declining PC prices says that consumers wouldn’t necessarily want to pay for it. 

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