The real state of affairs in the virtual reality industry differs greatly from what many journalists and observers say, and from their promises to the readers of the cliché “fantastic plunge into imaginary world”…
Why do I think so? Well, simply because I, myself, had a chance to test a good half of the existing AR and VR gadgets. I’ll speak for myself: Such test-drives only inflict disappointment and embarrassment. Yes, of course, demo video looks beautiful. The image is incredible and you can’t help opening your mouth in surprise as the WOW-effect occurs. But what comes next? Next, you start noticing terrible pixelation of visuals and then you begin to feel dizzy and nauseous. In addition, you learn a sad fact that there are almost no games or any kind of software in the world compatible with virtual reality helmets and running without lags or bugs.
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And that’s when you take off your Oculus and really want to throw it against the wall. This all is too ridiculous to be the “high-tech breakthrough” as there is barely any “full dive” effect! “We’ll fix it in the final version, this is only a beta version,” the developers would object. But how can one believe those who cynically postpone the launch of a best-selling product on the market?
Yes, they’ve always been perceived as “cheap half-helmets” or as an Oculus Rift parody. But the fact is that unlike Rift, Vive and Morpheus, mobile helmets are sold all over the world. They’re fun to play with and what is more important - they are substantially cheaper.
This review will give you an insight into the most outstanding mobile-VR headsets. Which mobile-VR headset is better? What is Homido? What is the difference between Homido and Samsung Gear? Is it possible to make a cardboard VR helmet? We’ll answer all these questions right now.
Even the most tuned smartphone virtual reality device is of rather a simple design for the 21st century. There’s almost no hardware, it doesn’t offer any “ideas you can’t live without” and doesn’t improve your smartphone’s graphics. No one is going to install in it an accelerometer for tracking head movements.
Basically, mobile VR helmet is a box with nice lenses providing stereoscopic effect, and high-quality smartphone mount.
In this case “simple” is not synonymous to “poor.” Mobile VR headset creates a virtual reality effect without expensive hardware and complicated circuits in an ingenious manner.
Nevertheless, this simplicity hides an array of issues common for both cheaper and flagman models. Bear in mind that:
Mobile VR helmets heat up quickly. 3D video and stereo games demand a lot of resources. The smartphones are working very, very hard at full capacity and give off energy. No one has yet had an idea to mount coolers to the helmets hence the overheating.
Pixelation is inevitable! All of them are guilty of high pixelation and cause motion sickness. However, it’s not mobile helmets that are to blame here, but smartphone manufacturers instead - as the helmets simply transmit the pixels and their plume through the glasses instead of producing them…
Famous manufacturers’ helmets are still overpriced. Virtual reality is in demand and the market is not saturated yet, hence low-key competition and possibility to skim the prices. Though some gadgets that offer competitive prices, such as Homido, are being introduced to the market.
On the first day we downloaded videos from Google Play. We also watched some movies on YouTube or other external sources. And we found all the games and entertainment applications at the market, using “cardboard” category.
At first we downloaded a lot of video. Anastasia was the first to try the gadget. She was watching everything from YouTube. We are talking now about classical 3D, not about 360˚ format (we tried it later).
“All in all, the 3D effect is present, and everything depends on the video quality. It mostly leaves much to be desired. But this is not Homido’s fault. The highest quality video that I’ve watched is the one about 3D Ocean. Corals and even fish looked sometimes quite natural. I had no problems with the helmet or optics.”
“360” spherical video
Then we moved on to video in the “360” format, or “spherical video.” Such movies are shot with the help of special gadgets, consisting of 8-16 action cameras like GoPro. As a result, the viewer can literally exist in the screen space. For example, rotate at the reported 360˚. And we did so! We watched it!
An interactive mini movie VRSE - Sundance Selection demonstrates best of all the advantages of this entertainment format. The viewer is in the centre of a beautiful lake, admiring the sunrise, beautiful forest, water… The smoke of an old locomotive looms on the horizon. Suddenly the locomotive runs off the rails and slides on the water right in your direction. Then it rams into you, falling to thousands of exotic birds! There is no scary effect, but the feeling of a miracle is certainly present. Then the viewer is raised into the air by some force. You fly into the space, higher and higher, until you find yourself into a closed room with an unborn baby. You turn into a grain, flying around the huge baby, captivated by the volume of the picture. At the end of the video the baby grabs you, making you feel a slight fear and the sense of reality.
This is a demonstration of the new format possibilities. It's impressive! The graphics in the movie aren’t ideal - the picture sometimes falls into pixels, but the scenes of the space flight and meeting the baby are very well done.
Virtual reality horrors
Horrors are a promising direction of 360 video development. We tested movies called "Sisters" and "Door3" and we're quite satisfied. The horror was almost the same. You are in a dark room, with music and atmosphere corresponding to the overall situation... Suddenly you are attacked by monsters and freaks, and it is almost unreal to guess where they will appear from, as you have to control 360 grades at a time, which is impossible for a human. Unfortunately, these were more 5-minute demos than full-scale films. And five minutes is sufficient to get really scared.
Sir Paul McCartney's virtual concert
Another trend in the world of 360 video is the spherical shooting of musical concerts. VR headset helped us attend a concert of Paul McCartney. Personally I liked very much what I saw. The project was shot on two or three cameras, so the viewpoints and size of picture were constantly changing. I could see Paul, then his fans and musicians. And all this was for a high-quality music. But I noticed one bug in that video - mirroring of the pictures near the nose bridge. I had to reload the video, which helped me to get rid of that trouble. For the rest, it was awesome. The video seemed very vivid and real, except for some picture distortions.
The clip of Coldplay's soloist (the Fort Minor project) we watched on YouTube. The first 360 clip in the history brought us a less important impression: Today's rockers are far from McCartney.
While watching all these films we didn't come across a single problem with Homido. The only thing is that after watching movies for one hour and a half we felt a little sea sickness - a slight nausea, giddiness, and hand tremor. May be we just have to get used to VR... We promise to monitor our health throughout the following week and share with you the outcome of these tests.
This sea disease comes even faster if you go on with game applications. All these games are based on prompt motions of the head, so the vestibular system suffers serious overcharge. Though our Dr. Anatom's tests turned out ideal. He didn't have trouble watching movies or playing games. However, Anastasia and I had problems. The sea sickness came after two hours of gaming test drives, and we had to take off the headset to make a considerable break (but it would be fair to say that we both have weak vestibular systems and suffer from sea sickness, even while traveling by plane).
Controllers and gamepads
We had time to realize that VR games need a controller. That is why on the first day we couldn't try all the applications, where it is needed to grab something, move freely and engage in close interaction with the environment. In some cases, we managed to tap the smartphone's touchscreen by shoving the finger under Homido, which was not very comfortable.
That is why we found an adapter cable to connect an Xbox gamepad (PS3 and PS4 gamepad can be connected in the same way). And things went better. :) But this option is an emergency one - as the wire of the receiver is disturbing. So, I advise not to be greedy and buy a Bluetooth gamepad. Then, you will enjoy games to the fullest. We liked gaming with Bluetooth very much.
If you haven't chosen a gamepad to buy, read our review: The best gamepads for Android mobile devices
We played normally for mobile headsets flight simulators and shooters. In all games of such kinds you are drifting by turning your head, while the hero is constantly moving. Shooting and target acquisition are made by focusing your view precisely on the goal.
We started with the traditional theme park game "Roller Coaster." You are in a truck of a roller coaster. To launch it you need to gaze at the handling for 10 seconds. Then you just move and watch. You are surrounded by impressive jungles. There certainly was a feeling of reality: “I'm emotional, so when the truck went down the mountain I was screaming: "Wow!" Even if your brain realizes that this is only a picture, your emotions are much stronger than rationale, and you have a big grin. I'm not very good for thrills and all the attractions, but still I want some adrenaline! So for people like me virtual reality is what they need. I'd call it a safe adrenaline! Of course, the tension is lower, but, if I would never attend real roller coaster, this is the only opportunity to feel this drive,” - thinks our Anastasia.
Then, we downloaded “Zombie Shooter VR.” This is a classical game where you are going in the abandoned metro, shooting with your eyes at the zombies approaching to you. The game is almost endless, and monsters moving towards you are really scary. But in the end, you get bored of the gameplay. They'd better invent RBs at every level! It would be more amusing.
Virtual trip in the human brain: "In Minds"
Our gaming marathon ended up with an education game: "In Minds." This is a demo version of a medical education and entertainment project. In a nano-capsule, you set off for a trip in the human brain. The goal is to heal the patient. Personally, I was flying in the grey matter and shooting at inflammatory neurons with a strange weapon. In their turn, they were spreading the disease among their neighbors. Everything happened in the space that was constantly rotating, which made the task of "medical sniper" far more difficult. This limited time and realism of the picture captivated me. Unfortunately, everything was over at the level of "depressive psychosis." I think this game can be filled with more interesting levels. For example, a battle for a ruined liver of an alcoholic! Talking seriously, such entertainment might become a perfect tool in biology classes or basic medicine in schools and colleges!
To sum it all up, we had fun. However, most of the games seemed a single-use entertainment. Personally, I see no point in playing Roller Coaster for the second time. This is a bad tendency, as the audience might soon lose all the interest towards the Cardboard market. But, every week new apps appear, so it’ll be endless fun, we hope. :)
Let’s start with something trashy, with a real virtual reality freak, with the goddamned cardboard VR-reality printed by Google. Funny as it seems, this thing actually sells well and works well whilst HTC’s and Oculus’ clever projects come true only in their fans’ dreams (count out the black market models).
The Google Cardboard project started with a brilliant idea of making virtual reality as user-accessible as possible. Prior to that, VR was associated with premium devices, and Google was the first to offer virtual reality at low prices to people (later, though, there appeared some even cheaper models).
Google Cardboard is a dismountable set of cardboard with two lenses inserted. The screen of this VR headset is your regular Android smartphone with the Cardboard app pre-installed. Obviously, the cardboard part would wear out instantly - but anyone with a bit of brain and a pair of scissors would be able to repair the case. The most essential thing is to keep the lenses.
Over a million of Android users have already ordered the Google Cardboard. By the way, it only costs $16.99. What a success it is, isn’t it?
However, this is still a half-helmet. It becomes clear when you pay attention to more expensive mobile VR-headsets with truly various functionality and possibilities.
UPD: In November 2015, we had yet another European (English) FreeFly VR headset join us. It is designed by the young techies from the Proteus VR London team. First things first, the guys did a great job in terms of both design and usability. The headset came to our testing supplied with a GLIDE wireless Bluetooth controller, and so this boxed headset will be useful not only for watching the demos and playing simple games, but also for participating in real fights in 3D shooters.
We’ll describe below what games we played and how it went, but we first want to focus on the FreeFly itself. The competitive edge of FreeFly is its 41 mm lenticular optic lens with +27 diopter power. These lenses provide for the record viewing angle. The headset is equipped with a three-band adjustable strap that gently but firmly enfolds your head. Its compact dimensions (7.1x5.1x5.5 inches) and a 295 gram weight won’t cause you any discomfort.
At a first glance FreeFly seems to be just like any other headset. However, a few details which create its competitive edge over the rivals are hiding behind the apparent simplicity:
- First of all, it is designed by Europeans. England, not China, is FreeFly’s motherland. This makes it different from 99% of the competitors (the only exception is the French Homido helmet, which we have recently covered). Europe is always a sort of a quality sign, as it guarantees reliability and no shipping problems. In addition, even the dimensions of the gadgets are calculated differently in each country. The British are guided by the dimensions of an average European’s face and head, while the Chinese are guided by the Chinese face dimensions. The difference can be substantial.
- Joystick is its main distinctive feature. VR headsets with own gamepads have only recently appeared on the market. Earlier any spatial interaction in the games was carried out with the help of a primitive system of magnets located on the headset. In order to shoot the target, grab some necessary object or communicate with mobs, you had to click the side of the device itself. Here everything works the way it’s supposed to: you move your head like you would in real life, and you walk and shoot using the gamepad.
- The viewing angle is 120 degrees. This is the largest angle there is on the mobile helmet market. It is ensured by large lenses, the same ones Oculus Rift DK2 has.
- It is fully compatible with Google Cardboard content. It is the Google Market apps which constitute 99% of all the decent VR helmet entertainment. Many Chinese models are not compatible with Google screen format; meanwhile the British manufacturer made a smart move. Your smart phone will automatically adjust the image to the headset model with the help of the supplied QR-code.
- Our main gamer, Dr. Anatom, was worried that FreeFly doesn’t have shortsightedness adjusting (to which he got used to when using Homido headset). But even after several consecutive hours of gaming, Dr. Anatom gave a thumbs-up to FreeFly. It even seemed to him that the viewing angle of this one is bigger than it is in other headsets.
The device was shipped in a massive plastic case with obvious strong foam cushioning. This is clever since most of the headsets are ordered online, and a long journey from the warehouse to a gamer’s apartment can be full of adventures.
The case has a cardboard cover, which is both decorative and informative. Here we’ve been able to discover not only the technical characteristics of the products, but also a manual and safety rules. The infographics present many new things. For example, the experts recommend letting your eyes and head rest every 10 minutes of consecutive gaming. There is also some information about the FreeFly age restriction (13+) and a recommendation to only plunge into virtual reality when sitting down. This is cool! No other sellers used to warn us about anything before!
Inside the case there is the actual headset, the manual, a brochure listing the popular apps and the said QR-code. As everything about the manual and the code is obvious, let’s say a couple of words about the device itself. Its key feature is the unusual smart phone mounting system. The phone is fixed inside the gadget, rather than on the outside. Usually the headsets mount the smart phone with the help of an external clip, and here it fully fits the FreeFly on the inside and is blocked by some rubber seals (just like a cassette is fixed in an old player). This eliminates the possibility of it falling out when the gamer moves his or her head suddenly.
Our Experience of 3D Action and Shooting with the FreeFly VR Helmet
Let’s now move on to the thing the helmet was actually designed for. From the very first attempt it became clear to us how important a great joystick is for 3D action and shooters. It is irreplaceable when playing Zombie Warfare (which is the best smart phone shooter according to Dr. Anatom)! Back in the day, it used to be the first shooter adapted for Cardboard, which had a well-developed location and weapon-changing system. It is still rated at 4 stars out of 5 on Google Play Market. Since the walking dead are attacking at a fast pace and don’t give you any time to think, speed is crucial here.
UPD: November 2015. What has finally happened was the initial aim of designing all of the mobile VR headsets! The legendary Quake for Google Cardboard has been launched, and we tested in with our Freefly VR Virtual Reality Smartphone 3D Headset with wireless controller.
For quite a long time we were condescending to mobile VR headsets. When reviewing various apps and games, we added some points for innovation and promising technology and turned a blind eye to game play mediocrity.
But suddenly everything changed in a minute. The king is back, baby! The first edition of Quake for Google Cardboard is now available on Play Market.
Joysticks are now a thing of the past. Now you can really walk, turn your head and jump, which is a real breakthrough! This is now almost an augmented reality rather than a mere simulator.
Quake in virtual reality has been available for some time to the owners of developer versions of Oculus Rift and for Samsung Gear VR (long story short, it was available for preppy boys with deep pockets). Becoming a widely available technology is a kind of revolution equal to its initial launch back in 1996.
Some younger gamers can hardly relate to my enthusiasm, so here is a short history lesson. Quake was the first ever first-person shooter in a 3D reality. It was a goddamn technological breakthrough in 1996. Other than being the most state-of-the-art game, Quake was simply an amazing game which triggered some other revolutions in the industry: it laid the foundation of eSports in general, triggered the modders’ movement (they design their own maps) and saw the dawn of machinima. Quake game play is purely addictive action, which perfectly plunges a gamer into the flowing atmosphere.
And today, 20 years after its first launch, Quake shows its potential once again. This aggressive and fuming shooter is perfect for virtual reality, as it shows most of the counterfeited games existing how little they are actually worth.
Quake for Google Cardboard is based on the version of Quake for Samsung Gear VR headset. It supports various modes and multi-player mode. It requires having a controller for walking and shooting. View is rotate with the help of head (or entire body, if you feel like it) movements. I tried playing Nexus 5 while wearing a FreeFly headset and it was perfect.
Here are a few words about installation. I recommend installing this game only to those users who get the hang of using their own smart phone. This version only contains the engine, you’ll have to find data files on your own by either downloading a demo version or copying them from your own Quake setup folder (or you can download a torrent, if you consider yourself a pirate).
Here are a few words about security. Quake is a fast-paced game which demands active jumping, running and turning. I doubt that people with unprepared vestibular system will find it easy to play. You’d better play carefully and only spend 10-15 minutes gaming. Discontinue once you feel nausea. Frankly speaking, I haven’t had such problems, but I’m sure someone can encounter them.
Invasion VR 3D Demo is only a beta version of a shooter-to-be. It makes the advantage of a joystick over a magnet obvious, though. The latter simply won’t work here, so the owners of Google Cardboard and similar products are simply out of the fun with Invasion VR. And what a game it is! You plunge into some bloody desert and shoot evil creatures which attack you from everywhere with two guns (each in one hand). Some surreal predating trees, giant mushrooms and spider creatures come from the back and from the front… then from the back again and from the front again. You can only track all of the enemies if you literally rotate around 360 degrees! It’s fun, simple and quick!
Galaxy vr Cardboard space is an incredibly cool mobile space simulator. Using a VR headset ensures full plunging into a spacecraft cockpit, and the full version will let you play online with other pilots.
Flight VR is less tuned in terms of game play and graphics but nevertheless a beautiful and interesting flight simulator.
We’ve mentioned Proton Pulse before. What can be cooler than a VR arcade, though? Nothing can, indeed ;). You can play this game for hours, as it has amazing game play, great graphics and it is highly addictive.
The gamepad will be useful not only for the shooter fans, but also for the fans of mobile horrors. These scary quests plunging you into barely visible space inhabited by monsters and ghosts have become an inalienable part of virtual reality. House of Terror VR Free is, for instance, a quality horror with the elements of adventure. We have once tried to play it with a Homido, but we didn’t manage to do so. It was extremely hard to move between locations without a joystick. FreeFly with a gamepad, on the other hand, let us get accustomed to the house inhabited by bloody creatures and full of mysteries. Spider attacks, the monsters falling from the ceiling, and attempts to get behind a locked door are all truly soul-chilling. The suspense is growing with the help of sound effects and briskness. Such games should be sold on the mass market (once graphics are improved and the number of locations is increased).
While “House of Terror” is a horror demanding thoughtful immersion, SpaceTerror VR is a dynamic yet one-time horror. You race an unknown monster in a haunted space platform. You are supposed to collect 5 secret gas cylinders in the hallways and bring them back to the space base. The main task is not to encounter the said monster (this is a variation of the labyrinth of the Minotaur). The game becomes annoying soon enough, but it’s good for showing the future potential of mobile horrors.
To sum up, we’ll say it was a cool experience! We have not come across any lags in the FreeFly or joystick when playing all these games. The smart phone was fixed firmly, and our necks and heads weren’t worn out because of the gadget weight or strap pressure. As for the nausea, it shows itself individually. But this isn’t a FreeFly issue; this is a problem of the game and the technology itself. So all in all, FreeFly is not to blame for anything and the experience was truly chill!
Our Verdict is We Give FreeFly a 5-Star Rating
FreeFly gives us a great opportunity to come in touch with virtual reality for a reasonable amount of money. There is something to pay for: the comfort, durability and innovation, for instance.
A supplied Bluetooth Gamepad Controller is a must-have if you’re interested in interactive shooters and 3D action games.
Where to Buy It?
The official website of the manufacturer is www.freeflyvr.com (the shipping is worldwide). The price on the official website is €75.00,
and the Amazon.com price is ~$79. Check the current price.
A new Virtual Reality Headset - Homido VR - has been recently launched on the market. Homido was created in France. The project was presented at ULLE, French crowdfunding resource, where it gained support. Gadget’s design was elaborated in Lille by three creative friends who are still managing the company together. So, you invest in real hi-tech traditions by buying Homido.
The Frenchmen made a multi-functional device for a very adequate price – from ~$81 to $106. The gadget’s distinctive features are follows:
- It is adjustable for visually-impaired users, thanks to its mechanical settings (for both myopia and hyperopia). Strange as it may seem, many even more expensive models are not equipped with such functionality;
- its size is adjustable for 6-8 year old children.
These two features make Homido a “gadget for a whole family.” Nowadays, when parents and children have several smartphones, the whole family can play in virtual reality. This is a good option for compact entertainment, especially for a long trip, holidays at the countryside, etc.
Homido headset review: Main characteristics - what smartphones can it operate with?
Homido operates with almost any smartphone that has an accelerometer and gyroscope. What is important, though, is that the size of the screen can’t exceed 4’’. For instance, we tested the device with Nexus 5 and got an optimal picture. This is the list of smartphones that operate for sure with the headset: Apple iPhone 6 / 6+, Apple iPhone 5/5C, Apple iPhone 5S, less than 5” Nexus 4 and Nexus 5, Sony Xperia Z2, LG G3, and Oneplus One. Samsung Galaxy S4 is supported partly, while Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung Note 3 and Samsung Note 4 get the green light from Homido.
What Homido can do?
- Watch classical 3D video
- Watch 360˚ video
- Play mobile games in the world of virtual reality
- Play classical PC games
- Use education and science content
Characteristics of Homido allow it to cope decently with all these sorts of entertainment. The headset gives a good 100˚ viewing angle, is wireless, operates with iOS and Android and several Windows phones. We have already covered adjustable interpapillary distance and additional settings for myopia and hyperopia. The headset has no earphones, but they can be easily connected to the smartphone. You can hear sound effects through phone’s dynamic, as there are special hole on the body.
“Gadgets-Reviews.com” team testing of virtual reality headset Homido
We received “Homido” in a brand carton box without visible deformation. The delivery guy did his job well. The coverage was bright, it reminded of gaming gadgets for children. We promptly took fancy for opening our purchase to play 3D games.
A soft bag, which can be used for further transportation, was inside. The bag and Homido itself turned out very compact. At first sight, the gadget weights about 300-400 g and can be easily placed in a knapsack or suitcase. On the contrast to the majority of expensive VR helmets, that still can’t get rid of wires and heavy power adapters, you can take this gadget with you travelling by train or plane. It is cool, as you might badly need gaming facilities while travelling. The only thing to mind is that your smartphone must have a powerful battery!
Homido test drive: First impressions
So, the box is opened, lenses are in their respective places. It’s time to try Homido. The device is easy to put on, and soft filler makes the contact of your face and plastic very comfortable. You almost don’t feel the weight of the helmet, even turning your head. The first day we played with the device for 2-3 hours each, but neither head nor neck got tired. The plastic is normal and firm. The soft filler is on the interior side of oculars.
Homido’s adjustment for vision: What certainly is a big advantage is a comfortable adjustment of Homido to the size of a head and vision. Three people from our team tested the device - one man had hyperopia, the other had myopia, and a girl had excellent vision. The size of our heads is different, too! Nevertheless, we all managed to find an ideal option for us, while when we previously tested Oculus Rift and Epson Moverio, and Vuzix, our editorship divided. Very often VR and AR wasn’t accessible or comfortable for at least one of the Gadget Reviews authors. Here you just only have to choose the right oculars, adjust interpapillary distance and focus, and you can use gadget as you wish!
We also liked a clasp for a mobile. It is a big moving clip that is fixed very tightly. It is hard to remove it to fix the phone, so a good fixation is guaranteed. We were a bit scared by a possibility to make a scrape on glazed and metallic smartphones, because while putting and taking out from Homido the clip contacts with the phone. In theory, it can lead to slight damage of the top part of the body. But our phones are still intact, and we had time to use it to the fullest!
Homido VR reviews by Gadgets-reviews team:
As we've mentioned previously, three people from our team with different vision, vestibular system, and preferences tested the device. Below you can find our short reviews about Homido.
Anastasia (ideal vision, weak vestibular system): Personally I am very impressed by this headset and virtual reality, especially by spherical panoramas of www.360cities.net. Of course you can see them on the PC, but Homido gives you not only the feeling of presence there, but also an opportunity to see the slightest detail. I was captivated by virtual mini-excursions in world's museums. The quality of the picture is not always brilliant, but this is due to the content (games or video) quality, not the headset. And unless these are some genuinely high-quality films, neither Samsung nor Oculus doesn't pay off. That’s why right now, Homido is the best and most reasonable cost-performance ratio.
Dr. Anatom (myopia, good vestibular system): My opinion is positive. I tested various gadgets of virtual and augmented reality, and I have few bones to pick to Homido. The most important advantage for me is the adjustment for my vision, as only few competitors of Homido have it (even those whose products are far more expensive). Virtual reality got accessible when nobody was waiting for it any more. For sure, you need a good smartphone to delve into virtual reality. But I think that the phones will develop without lagging behind platform like Oculus Rift and others. There won't be great difference between the bodies. There isn't a wide range of the content by far, but I'm sure that it will soar up.
Stinger (hyperopia, bad vestibular system): Anastasia enjoyed videos and excursions, Dr.Anatom likes games, and I feel concerned about the prospects of education content. I think that such accessible VR headsets must enter schools and colleges. Everybody has a smartphone nowadays, and VR can help to explain the basics of many subjects. Classes would become more useful and interesting. Even excursions can be organized in a school with the help of VR headsets (for example, wander around the ruins of an ancient town at the lesson of history or, taking the "In Minds" game as an example, teach the basics of anatomy).
Our verdict: We give Homido 5 stars. Because of these 4 benefits:
1. The price. Homido VR you can buy on Amazon just for $81-$106. This is cheap, especially when comparing it to competitors, such as Samsung Gear VR (~$279.99) and I won’t even mention the approximate price for the classic VR headsets, such as Oculus Rift or Avegnant Glyph.
2. A possibility of very thorough individual settings of the gadget. Homido is literally made of hinges and moving parts, which allows tailoring the device to the needs of a certain users. This function is rare for the product at a reasonable price.
3. Homido is positioned as a family gadget. It is usually the kids who are interested in such gadgets, but regular VR helmets are not made to fit smaller inter-ocular distant. As a result, the kid doesn’t get true pleasure from gaming or watching a movie, and sees a blurry image instead. Homido made everything possible to provide true adjustability to different inter-ocular distances. Both the adults and the kids will be able to use Homido.
4. These glasses will also fit astigmatic users. A special patch for correcting the distance between the eye and the lens was designed for them. By the way, that “focus wheel” helped me very much as I really was able to adjust the lens to my own comfort.
You can read Amazon.com customer reviews. There are still very few of them, but this is just the beginning as the product is brand new and has just been launched.
Price: ~ $81
A Battle of the Two European Helmets: FreeFly vs Homido
It’s hard to choose a winner in the battle of two European helmets: Homido and FF. Both of these gadgets are well ahead of the most of their competitors.
Homido is great for family entertainment as anyone can wear it, be it a child, a person with myopia or hyperopia. FreeFly, on the other hand, got rid of a bunch of headpieces, and so it is easier to handle. Moreover, the precious gamepad, light design and the price are all undoubted advantages of it.
The only thing that is clear is that both of these devices bypass by all characteristics the popular Google Cardboard which is a mere beta version of virtual reality.
The most famous competitors of Homido are Google Cardboard and its derivatives, and the expensive Samsung Gear VR. You can read about them below and above. But Homido has less famous but more dangerous competitors. These are its little brothers from China. You can find a lot of devices, similar in their characteristics, by NONAME-like developers. And they are very cheap as a rule.
DESTEK 3D VR
Let's take DESTEK 3D VR for instance. You can find it on Amazon.com for $39.99. Its viewing angle is less by 10 degrees, and the device has no adjustment for weak vision. The users highlight its ability to operate with the weakest and cheapest smartphones, criticizing bad fixation of belts and near the nose.
Unlike the previous model, SUNNYPEAK (purchasable for ~$26 on Amazon.com) has a magnetic trigger, focus adjustment (you have to adjust the lenses with your hands like in a binocular) and interpapillary distance adjustment. The price for the device may soar up in the near future. The current low price might be a kind of promo activity to popularize the gadget. People criticize its uncomfortable fixation that closes pain near the nose and eyes.
The cheapest is GOODO ($19). There are simple plastic and magnetic buttons. Aspheric lenses, according to what's reported, are also adjustable. Users complain that the phone isn't secured properly, and can drop out. So, this is quite a risky thing.
The Samsung virtual reality helmet is just an extension and an accessory to Samsung’s flagship smartphones: Galaxy Note 4, Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge. And it is the only smartphone compatible with this helmet. You simply won’t be able to place another smartphone in Gear VR. This situation has both some benefits and drawbacks.
UPD: November 20, 2015. The Gear VR, commercially-available virtual reality headset for $99.99 has been officially released and immediately becomes #1 Best Seller in 3D Viewing Glasses on Amazon.com and "Temporarily out of stock".
New version of Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus, has been upgraded with new and improved features: Lighter weight; Improved fit, including room for most eyeglasses and improved padding for extra comfort and durability; An upgraded touch pad that’s easier to use.
The good thing is that this is the only mobile helmet about which we know practically everything in terms of its characteristics. If the visual effect in Homido or Cardboard directly depends on the type of smartphone placed there, with this helmet the effect will always be predictable. The point of view angle is 96°, there is an accelerometer, a hygrometer, a magnetic sensor and a presence sensor are all available. The screen response to the user data input delay is <20 milliseconds which is a Samsung Gear constant.
The bad thing is that such artificial restrictions will prevent Samsung from promoting the helmet as an independent device. Are there many Samsung Galaxy fans in the world? Their number is incomparable to the number of VR fans who have other smartphones! If someone wants to buy Gear specifically, that person would have to invest not only in the device itself, but also in the Galaxy smartphone. And this adds up to a lavish price.
Let’s go back to the gadget’s characteristics though.
Just like Homido, Samsung takes into account the user’s myopia or hyperopia, and can change the inter-ocular distance. This is also the only mobile VR headset which guarantees high-quality surround sound for its users (the sound is transmitted from the smartphone, so you'll have to buy headphones).
Samsung has got two app stores working simultaneously – its own Gear store and Oculus’s. That gives you quite a choice of entertainment given that the whole market of 3D games and stereo video is rather scarce.
To sum up, our opinion is ambiguous. Is it debatable that Samsung VR is the most tuned mobile helmet available on the market? It hardly is. Is it worth paying such price for it whilst Homido or FreeFly provide a similar range of functions to that of Samsung Gear VR? That’s debatable. Personally, I’m not a fan of Galaxy Note. Are you?
Yes, mobile virtual reality headsets are weird gadgets. They don’t have their own battery or hardware, they are being constantly criticized, and they haven’t become a household name yet. But they are the only thing virtual reality fans actually have. It’s actually hard to find a perfect VR headset which would satisfy everyone - but there are a lot of them to choose from.
If you’re only thinking of trying virtual reality gaming, purchase some cut rate, not very expensive (about $80) models, such as Homido and FreeFly (especially if you’re not a fan of Galaxy Note 4). They will rejoice all of your family and save you a substantial sum of money which a new smartphone would cost. It is likely that the virtual reality will be compatible with the phone you already have.
As an alternative, you can try Samsung, the famous brand. Their Galaxy Note 4 is a high quality smartphone, and the Gear app store is also vast. You’ll have lots of games to play! A well-known brand, guarantee of quality, after sales service, high-quality assembly are all arguments for buying “Samsung.”
As for the rest, we express our respect for all the companies: Samsung, Google, Homido and FreeFly. Of course, their products are not perfect, but are an intermediate step in the development of virtual reality gadgets. One thing I know for sure is that these companies are not prototype masters but best-sellers’ authors, which is a considerable advantage to their brand history.
If you are still planning to wait for a virtual reality headset of full value, then read
- Who are Oculus Rift Rivals: “Virtual reality helmets: which is to win Oculus Rift?”
- And our investigation - Clash of Expectations: “Oculus Rift VR helmet vs HTC Vive VR headset”