Virtual Reality (VR) has become an ubiquitous topic that is enthusiastically being received by artists and promises nothing less than a revolution in digital art, creativity, and design. Being immersed in VR allows you to create directly in 3D, using gestural inputs so that your creations precisely match the movements of your hands and body. Representing perspective is no longer something you need to think about – you can now extract your ideas straight from your head into a 3D space.
Another big advantage is the ability to create at full scale, so you can really experience being inside or alongside your creations.
So, whether you are just starting to explore the world of VR art and design, I thought it would be helpful to resume you the two main groups that actually divides the VR devices available on the market.
Which type of headset is better for you, Tethered or Standalone?
Tethered headsets are physically connected to an external PC or console, usually have external sensors or outward-facing cameras on the headset to perform movement tracking for both your head and your hands which is also facilitated by motion-sensing controllers. Although the cables can be a bit annoying sometimes, the Tethered VR headsets are much lighter than Standalone headsets and they offer higher-quality graphics and better refresh rates.
Standalone headsets on the other hand, require the least external connection; they are plug-and-play, in the sense that apart from charging the battery, standalone VR headsets don’t require anything else to function. They come with built-in processors, sensors, batteries, storage space, and internal displays, so they don’t need a connection to a computer.
Also, they are called all-in-one VR headsets and since they are wireless, users have the freedom to move around anywhere they want to. This makes these headsets much more immersive than the tethered ones.
With that being said, now it’s time to make you some VR helmet recommendations and help you choose one of the best devices out there.
Oculus Quest 2
Like its predecessor, the Oculus Quest 2 works as a standalone device, so it does not require a smartphone or PC for a full gaming experience. This makes this headset an autonomous device that installs the applications directly to its internal storage. In addition, you can play wirelessly with your artistic VR apps without the need to connect them to a computer or a console. In the Oculus store you will find some well-known artistic tools like: Gravity Sketch, originally created as a VR sculpting tool for car and shoe designers; King Spray, an amazing graffiti simulator able to reproduce the sprays faithfully to the reality; Quill Theater, a tool that offers an amazing range of options and styles to create animated illustrations, between others. Another function of this headset is that can also be hooked up to your computer to enjoy exclusive PC titles. It is a good option if you don't have a high-end PC.
Like the previous version, this device doesn't need any accessories for tracking purposes, as it makes use of the Oculus inside-out tracking system to accurately transmit the player's movements to the device. It also comes with the Oculus Touch controllers.
For most people, the best standalone headset nowadays for design and art, as it doesn't need to be connected to any computer and provides a big amount of liberty.
Oculus Rift S
We have already seen the standalone model of Oculus, but the company also has some devices to connect to the PC. In this case we have to talk about the Oculus Rift S, probably the best low-cost VR headset for PC.
One of the great advantages of these VR headsets is that they do not need to use external sensors to determine the playing area. It comes equipped with two Oculus Touch controllers, thanks to which you can interact with virtual environments easily and with a high degree of accuracy.
A virtual reality headset with a LCD screen that conforms a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels (1280 x 1440 per eye) and a refresh rate of 80Hz. The result is a sharper image, which better lenses make possible and a lower fly screen effect. Also the visor can now be pushed back and forth just like on the PlayStation VR by pressing a button. This noticeably increases wearing comfort for those who wear glasses. The IPD adjustment is made by software. It connects to the PC through a five-meter cable and allows you to connect headphones with a 3.5 mm jack connection.
HTC Vive Cosmos
The HTC Vive Cosmos is the great successor to the Vive glasses saga.
The first HTC Vive helped put virtual reality on the map. Together with the Oculus Rift, it was one of the first 'real' VR glasses, which can accurately transmit the position of your head and hands in a room. This is a big advantage if you are, for example, a 3D architect working on designing a virtual room or space to walk around and inspect how everything fits together. This is possible because these new glasses have a better screen and no longer require you to place sensors in corners of your room.
That netilw screen is extraordinarily sharp. In front of each eye there is a screen with a resolution of 1440 x 1700 pixels, which is sharper than competitors such as the Oculus Rift S and the Valve Index. You notice this especially when reading texts in VR; they are suddenly also easy to view when you are further away.
The Valve Index is one of the most interesting VR glasses which was released in 2019.
The VR headset offers an LCD with 2880 x 1600 pixels with low persistence, since Valve relies on an RGB pixel matrix, but there is a third additional set of subpixels. The increased number of subpixels and their arrangement visibly contribute to the image impression in VR. This allows digital artists and 3D content creators to work on building their models at finer level-of-detail and to inspect their designs at a high resolution. More subpixels also mean less annoying black gaps between the pixels and thus fewer mosquito wireframes.
The use of LCD instead of OLED allows the display to works with up to 144 Hz instead of 90 Hz. This offers a so-called low-persistence mode in which the afterglow of the pixels is decreased. The higher repetition frequency should ensure a more natural and fluid VR experience.
HP Reverb G2 Windows Mixed Reality
One of Microsoft's self-proclaimed tasks is to make mixed reality more affordable while establishing Windows 10 as the platform of choice. Microsoft understands mixed reality as both virtual reality headsets, which can integrate real objects into the virtual environment using a camera, and augmented reality devices that combine a real image of the environment with additional digital information, such as Microsoft's HoloLens glasses.
Windows Mixed Reality, according to Microsoft, includes a wide range of possibilities. At one end there are devices for augmented reality that primarily show the real world but incorporate virtual elements into it. On the other hand, there is virtual reality, which mainly contains virtual environments, but is still partly connected to the real world.
In contrast to other VR devices, Microsoft's solution does not require expensive high-performance computers and complex equipment. To immerse yourself in virtual realities, all you have to do is connect the glasses to the PC via USB and HDMI cables - that's it. Control is ideally carried out using the additionally available hand controller.
No matter in which direction VR will develop in: The technology is already there and it will not go away.
Following the general development trend in technology, the next generation of headsets will above all be cheaper, smaller, lighter and more comfortable and will therefore likely find their way into the mass market.
In the words of John Lasseter, producer and chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios:
"It's not the technology that entertains people, it's what you do with the technology"
Now it is primarily the creative minds' ideas that are needed to create unique content. Given the speed at which VR technology is developing, these ideas have the potential to fundamentally change many areas of our lives.
The technology is not only celebrated by gamers and technology enthusiasts, but more and more large companies such as Ford or IKEA are designing their products using virtual reality; we are seeing this show up in many ways.
The film industry is increasingly moving toward investments in VR artistic tools. Including Quill theater founded by Oculus Story Studio, is a powerful tool developed to create Dear Angelica, the first animated illustration experience made entirely with virtual reality.
Car and shoe manufacturers are using VR for the design process of their prototypes.
Digital artists can create art and interact with the elements in an immersive and full of freedom environment.
So whether you are the proud owner of a new Oculus Quest 2, or have had a Quest for a while and are just starting to explore the world of VR art and design, I thought it would be helpful to round up some of the best apps available.