AR and VR headsets get a consumer-friendly design update

2018 could be the year that virtual and augmented reality finally begin to live up to the hype and expectations tracked by Cassandra in 2014. Marriott recently announced it will become the first major hotel brand to introduce both AR and VR technology across its entire Delta portfolio, and theater network NCM is testing a companion app to the Noovie pre-show entertainment that will allow audiences to play interactive AR games on the big screen. But first, hardware makers are at work making headsets more affordable and appealing for the masses.


After three years of hype and major investment from Google, Magic Leap is promising that 2018 will be the year it finally releases its augmented reality system. The Magic Leap One resembles what Rolling Stone calls "a pair of oversized cyberpunk-y goggles" with a puck-shaped external computer called a Lightpack and a handheld controller.  It will accept multiple input modes including voice, gesture, head pose, and eye tracking, and it also maps persistent objects onto the environment. The goggles will reportedly come in two sizes, with the option of custom forehead, nose, and temple pads. The company is also working on getting prescription lenses built into models. 


Facebook-backed Oculus believes the Oculus Go will make it easier to just "hang out with your friends." This is the company's first device that untethers the user from a computer. As for technology advancements, Oculus says the Go's high-resolution, fast-switch LCD screen dramatically improves visual clarity and reduces screen door effect, and the next-generation lenses are its best ever. Looking forward, Oculus says it is working on a prototype for two controllers to enable users to experience sensation while exploring VR worlds. The $199 price point is a big drop from the $599 cost of its previous offering, the Rift. 


For budget seekers, the Mira Prism is set to roll out for $99 by letting users slide an iPhone into the headset and see its display reflected into their line of sight, while the phone’s front-facing camera takes care of some limited positional tracking. As reported in The Verge, "Objects appear to float in front of you, rendered in stereoscopic 3D. The experience is very different from “mixed reality” that pipes a camera feed into a VR headset, because you’re seeing the real world at full resolution through your own eyes." While one reviewer joked that the headset resembles a jeweler's loupe, it nevertheless could prove to be a good product for those just testing the waters to see if this category is worth the hype and investment.