Virtual reality. Sounds like science fiction. Or like the guy at the party who brings his virtual reality headset and blows everyone’s mind with a horror video game trip.
But what it really sounds like is, “so expensive you can’t ever afford to escape this sordid reality, even for a few minutes”. After all, who wants to shell out $600 for an Oculus Rift VR headset?
Well, if you’re the proud owner of an iPhone, you don’t have to. There are a bunch of iPhone-compatible virtual reality headsets out there for sale – all you need is a VR app on your phone and a headset. With those, you’ll be good to go. What kind of headset is perfect for you? Below are our four favorite virtual reality headset options for iPhones.
Uh, what – cardboard? You read that right. But not just any cardboard: Google Cardboard. In an effort to spread virtual reality technology to us plebes, Google produced a simple, low-cost viewer made of cardboard with a head strap – for a mere $15. Think of it as a glorified box to hold your iPhone in place while you explore strange new worlds in virtual reality. 3D glasses on steroids, basically.
It’s a little more complicated than that – but not much. The piece of cardboard is cut into a shape to hold your phone, and fitted with a 45 mm lens and a near field communication tag. Download a Google Cardboard-compatible app onto your iPhone, slide your phone into the cardboard box, put on the headset, and that’s it.
You can also buy pre-manufactured assembly kits of Google Cardboard-specified designs from third parties, like this one.
Actual Cardboard for Virtual Reality
Here’s the thing about Google Cardboard and those third party manufacturers: Google actually made the specs to build your own virtual reality headset freely available for download – and open source. Which means that, if you’re really on a budget (we’re talking 5-5-5 Domino’s Pizza level-budget), you could always make a virtual reality headset out of a cardboard pizza box.
We’re not kidding. CNET published a tutorial for how to turn your medium pizza – extra pepperoni, extra peppers – into a portal to another dimension. Okay, maybe it’s not that simple. You’ll still need a neodymium ring magnet, a ceramic disk magnet, and the requisite 45mm focal distance. But it still makes for a great party trick – and it’s still well within your weekly beer budget.
Starting at $15 for the older model (or $30 for the Deluxe viewer), the Mattel View Master is an affordable, accessible, and reliable virtual reality headset that’s compatible with the iPhones 5 and 6.
You can also download free View Master apps, like “View Master Destinations“, to use on your new virtual reality headset. Travel the world, play games, watch movies – in a complete immersive experience that won’t break the bank.
Enough with the budget options. We’re not all that cheap and poor, are we? But even if you are, higher quality virtual reality headsets for your iPhone are still relatively affordable.
The Freefly VR, for example, only costs $79 – well worth the upgrade in quality as compared to the other options. Compatible with most Android and iOS devices, the Freefly offers your standard virtual reality headset experience, with some perks. You’ll have a higher (120 degree) field of view. It also comes with a Bluetooth games controller to take your virtual reality gaming up a notch – though, sadly, this feature is not yet compatible with iPhones.
Virtual reality headsets shouldn’t be the product for the Jetsons and Silicon Valley-types. You can also afford your own virtual reality headset – if anything, try out the Google Cardboard for $15, see what you think. If it turns out that virtual reality is your thing, you can always upgrade – and you’ll always have an iPhone to use!
What’re your favorite virtual reality headsets? Let us know in the comments!