Much like the fledgling smartwatch and 3D printing sectors, personal VR is still figuring itself out. The Oculus Rift proves that virtual reality can indeed be a life-altering experience, and while it’s far from becoming mainstream, the path for its widespread adoption is marked. CarPlay and Android Auto showed that your phone can provide a simple solution for dashboard operating systems; similarly, the phone in your pocket can easily serve as the brains of a virtual reality operation. Google and Samsung have shown that it’s possible to create a believable VR scenario with a great handset and a great set of goggles.
Longstanding optics leader Zeiss‘s bold pivot from producing lenses for DSLRs and video cameras into the VR space is full of promise. In many ways, their $99 VR One goggles split the difference between all-encompassing, expensive units like the Oculus Rift and flimsy contraptions like Google Cardboard.
Essentially, the unit works by holding most phones ranging from 4.7 and 5.2-inches and allowing VR and Augmented Reality apps to produce virtual worlds for immersion. The included Unity3D SDK — which gives developers with the necessary tools to create software that jibes with the VR One’s lenses — works with both iOS and Android. The VR One is capable of working with a multitude of phones by way of $10 inserts, and Zeiss is (refreshingly) giving users the ability to vote on what phones it should support next. In other words, it’s creating an ecosystem foundation that doesn’t alienate one large user base or another.
The VR One won’t be a barnburner, from a sales perspective; the use case is still limited, as is the accompanying software. That said, every revolution begins with an idea that takes some getting used to, and Zeiss’s platform-agnostic approach is one that could (and should) be supported by those interested in VR shenanigans.
Compatibility: Android & iOS (iPhone 6 or Galaxy S5, more coming)