Virtual headsets are designed either as standalone devices or are a shell holding the viewer’s smartphone as the display source. The Merge VR headset falls in the second category and adds a virtual reality remote control the company calls VR Motion Controller.
The headset is compatible with Android and iOS smartphones and accepts various sizes including the iPhone 6+. The company already offers virtual reality apps on Google Play and the Apple App Store. In contrast to models from other vendors, the Merge VR headset is made from a “high-end, durable, soft, and flexible foam” that will make the headset fit comfortably on the wearer’s face. The material seems to be the great differentiator between the various manufacturers, from shiny plastic to cardboard, the variety is amazing. A soft foam does make a lot of sense for a head worn device unless it leads to too much sweating.
The headset uses only part of the smartphone display and the resulting image will depend on the underlying smartphone resolution, so it is difficult to judge the quality provided by the headset.
It also adds a virtual remote that “lets users navigate virtual worlds with the click of a button, as well as enable new gameplay and controls never possible before in mobile VR”. The controller is a rather simple controller that works in combination with the smartphone sensors.
The goal is to allow for virtual gaming and Merge VR is working on getting its device designed into upcoming games as well as apps. It has started a Launch Partners Program that is already under way and gives developers first access to new SDK releases.
Merge VR is offering the hardware at a very interesting price point. $129 could be considered close to an impulse buy level and should allow plenty of consumers potential access to VR technology. A small player like Merge VR may have issues to get its message out though. – NH