Virtual Reality

Quick look: Razer's virtual reality (dev kit) headset

Quick look: Razer's virtual r...
Gizmag takes the dev kit for Razer's open-source VR platform for a quick spin (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag takes the dev kit for Razer's open-source VR platform for a quick spin (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
View 3 Images
Gizmag takes the dev kit for Razer's open-source VR platform for a quick spin (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
1/3
Gizmag takes the dev kit for Razer's open-source VR platform for a quick spin (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The VR headset that Razer is demoing for CES (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
2/3
The VR headset that Razer is demoing for CES (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The dev kit will cost US$200, and ship this June (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
3/3
The dev kit will cost US$200, and ship this June (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
View gallery - 3 images

Now that Palmer Luckey and Oculus VR have made virtual reality a thing, everyone wants a piece of the action. Gizmag went hands-on with one of those attempts, the initial developer kit for Razer's open source virtual reality platform.

After using the excellent Oculus Rift (prototypes) and Oculus-powered Samsung Gear VR, our quick demo with the Razer headset was a big pile of "meh." Is it virtual reality? Yep. Is it in any way better than the innovators that it's following? Nope.

Our demo involved a stationary shooting game, blasting away baddies in a forest, using hand control (courtesy of a Leap Motion sensor strapped to its front). Generally speaking, there wasn't anything unusually immersive about the experience or anything new about the technology that's driving it.

The VR headset that Razer is demoing for CES (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The VR headset that Razer is demoing for CES (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The one thing that does make Razer's take on VR unique is its open-source nature. Dubbed OSVR (Open Source Virtual Reality), the platform isn't its own standalone operating system, but instead a standardized interface that developers can use to build apps on top of "any operating system" (including Windows, Android and Linux). It even plays nicely with the Oculus Rift DK2. The underlying theory is that open source inherently accelerates innovation and lowers financial bars of entry, and that OSVR will do that more than other platforms.

Min-Liang Tan, Razer co-founder and CEO, said in a press release that "OSVR brings game developers, gamers and hardware manufacturers together to solve those challenges and make virtual reality gaming a reality for the masses."

Noble enough aspirations, we suppose. But we aren't sure if an open-source standard is really necessary – or a recipe for success – in the burgeoning world of VR. In mobile, the open-sourced and affordable Android rose as an antidote to the closed and restrictive iOS (and the expensive devices that ran it). But the Oculus platform, at least right now, isn't remotely restrictive and the consumer Oculus Rift is likely to fall in the US$200-400 range. How an open-source alternative is needed here is anyone's guess. Perhaps we're looking at a solution desperately seeking a problem (and a seat at a potentially lucrative table).

But if you live and die by open source, then perhaps this will get you geared up to build the next great virtual reality app. Don't let our lack of enthusiasm stop you.

Razer's "OSVR Hacker Dev Kit" starts shipping in June for US$200.

Project page: Razer

View gallery - 3 images
2 comments
2 comments
DonGateley
But the first real commercial device, the Gear VR, is highly restricted. They curate all content and it remains very limited. There is no way for a developer to go from concept to user directly. I think OSVR will provide a serious alternate reality to the Samsung/Oculus controlled revenue channel because of that openness.
As for tech, I'm not surprised or chagrined that it is currently sorta meh. The openness will get all kinds of folks looking toward bettering it and they can do so on a piecemeal basis rather than full system upgrades.
ChairmanLMAO
Well you know FACEBOOK owning Occulus is a problem. A problem looking for solutions. I'm not buying a Rift unless Occulus distances itself as a company from Facebook. Now, you should know that many people consider the Facebook tracking on THIS website and many others to be more than a little annoying also a complete and illegal invasion of privacy. It is safe to assume that Mr Zuckerburg will be watching what you are. If there were some guarantee that Facebook won't be spying on our VR adventures maybe I might consider a Rift. Until then I will SOLVE the PROBLEM of Facebook SPYING by buying another product like the Razer OSVR.
GO RAZER!