Ambitious Totem VR headset offers built-in cameras and wide compatibility

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The Totem VR headset is looking to raise $350,000 via Kickstarter

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Canadian company Vrvana is looking to Kickstarter for a hefty influx of cash to bring its ambitious virtual reality headset, known as the Totem, to the general public. The product offers a number of unique features, including built-in cameras and high levels of compatibility that the company hopes will set it apart from key VR competitors, most notably the Oculus Rift.

The headset has low-latency, hardware accelerated motion tracking, a 1080p OLED display, and a 90-degree field of view. That’s a little less expansive than the Oculus Rift DK2’s 100-degree offering, but the company claims it provides an immersive and engaging VR experience.

One of Totem’s standout features is its onboard cameras. The two 120 Hz 1080p shooters allow the user to switch from virtual reality back to the real world at the touch of the button - something that could make wearing the headset for extended periods much more viable.

The new headset is also promising an unparalleled level of compatibility. The best known VR headset, the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 (DK2), is capable of connecting to OS X, Linux and Windows systems, while the Samsung Gear VR and Project Morpheus will only be compatible with the Galaxy Note 4 and PlayStation 4 respectively. The Totem headset goes beyond this with the ability to connect to any HDMI source that plays Side-by-Side 3D games or videos.

It's worth noting that none of these headsets are yet sold as consumer products. Only the Oculus-powered Gear VR is set to launch in 2014.

Back to the Totem, the company says the headset's HDMI compatibility means you can plug it into a wide range of devices, including consoles like the Xbox One and PS4, or even iOS and Android devices. The headset can also emulate mouse and gamepad controls, with the built-in sensors automatically translating your movements into control inputs. The lenses can also be individually focused, meaning that you shouldn’t have to wear glasses or contact lenses during use.

If you’re thinking about shelling out the US$440 required to get your hands on an early bird version of the Totem, there would actually be a fair bit of content waiting for you (providing you’ve got the patience to get them running). According to Vrvana, the new headset works with DK1 Rift-enabled games, and the company has plans to support DK2 titles in the future.

Interestingly, Vrvana doesn’t see the Totem’s applications as limited to gaming and media consumption, but believes it can play a role in other industries such as tourism, healthcare and education. Examples of its use include virtual walkthroughs of buildings still in the planning stages and virtual tours of travel destinations.

While the Totem is promising some features that we’ve not yet seen in competing headsets, it's easy to make promises on Kickstarter. It’s certainly an ambitious project, though, and having already hit $117,000 in its $350,000 Kickstarter funding effort in just three days, we’re likely to see the project move forward. If all goes to plan (a big "if" in the world of crowdfunding), the Vrvana plans to start shipping the headsets in April 2015.

Check out the video below for a closer look at the Totem VR headset.

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