Although the Oculus Rift is leading the pack as far as the virtual reality headset revolution is concerned, it won’t be long before numerous competitors stake their claim on the market. The same thing happened with Android-based consoles (read: Ouya, M.O.J.O, etc.), and it will almost certainly happen with VR.
But while several companies, most notably Sony, are simply toying with VR, another company, GameFace Labs, is ready to show their prototype off. And although GameFace’s new VR headset, the Mark IV, was overshadowed by Oculus’ Crystal Cove prototype, it still had journalists talking at CES 2014.
The most obvious difference between GameFace Labs’ VR headset and the Oculus Rift stems from its self-contained nature. While the Oculus Rift needs to plug into some form of input device to run – a console, a PC, or something of that nature – the Mark IV houses its own input device. Gamers can switch between different experiences right from the Mark IV’s internal menu, and without removing the headset.
However, while the Mark IV offers a wireless experience, with a Bluetooth-synced controller in-hand, that advantage might also be a disadvantage. As Engadget notes, switching between apps/games without removing the headset increases the likelihood that users will get disoriented over time. Similarly, the freedom of movement afforded by the wireless construction makes it so users can play games while standing, which Engadget says can also be disorienting. These two scenarios resulted in a feeling of nausea in the tester, something that Oculus users rarely experience.
Obviously, the disorientation is something that can be worked out over time, and it is also the only knock against the Mark IV cited by testers. The headset’s construction was otherwise praised, especially the low latency, 5.2-inch LED display and the Tegra 4 processor. In fact, GameFace Labs is already working on a larger size display, but the one at CES preformed admirably according to testers.
Other future considerations for GFL’s VR headset include an app store for easy game access straight from the device, and there is talk of including NVIDIA‘s new K1 chip for a little (a lot) extra horsepower.
Having not demoed the Mark IV ourselves it’s hard to tell how it compares to the Oculus Rift. Yet, based on previews of the device, it sounds like GameFace Labs has put together a competitor that does enough different to standout. Granted, some of those differences might also be shortcomings, but those can be ironed out through more testing. Either way, the VR headset might be over in our hands sooner than we think, as GameFace is hoping to have the device on-sale some time in 2014.
What do you think of the GameFace Mark IV based on CES previews? Does it sound like an Oculus competitor?