Do you have a brilliant virtual reality application that simply needs the right platform? Perhaps as a developer you have a few modern smartphones and don't want to drop $1,000 on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Samsung Gear VR for one or two applications? Then perhaps Carl Zeiss have the answer with their recently announced VR ONE "viewfinder" virtual reality headset. It's now on preorder at $99 or â‚¬99 and should ship by Christmas. The reason why it's relatively inexpensive is because it relies on your smartphone's display, accelerometer and gyroscope sensors, speaker, 3.5mm or Bluetooth output for sound, rather than these sensors built into the headset. Beyond the design and famous quality Carl Zeiss lenses, the VR ONE contains no electronic equipment. It's also cheap because the project is completely open; development, growth and to a point, marketing is down to the developer community. The software development kit (SDK) supports Android and iOS with screen sizes ranging from 4.7-inch to 5.2-inch; smartphones require a fitting tray to ensure that camera apertures and screens align properly, but this will allow augmented reality software as well as virtual reality. Carl Zeiss has said that the first two trays will be for the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5 with the third and subsequent trays being decided by the community. There's a vote at the source link with the Samsung Galaxy S4 the next favourite, followed by the HTC One M8.
For applications, Carl Zeiss is leaving this open to the community. We've seen a couple of demonstration applications: there's a photo viewer and an augmented reality proof of concept application. If you want to see these applications, they're available on the Google Play Store, search for VR ONE Media and VR ONE AR. That's it. The ZR One is out in December, which is only a couple of months away; they're hoping that the community is going to come up with some great applications and uses for the unit. To encourage developer support, Carl Zeiss will be running a competition from their Tumblr blog, but as at the time of publication we've no information about this. It'll be published on their blog, which you can visit from the source link below. The blog details that some applications could be controlled via a Bluetooth unit so there's no way to access the smartphone whilst it's in the visor.
I've read around the Internet that the VR ONE, Gear VR and similar devices are considered to be nothing more than a stop-gap between nothing and the full blown virtual reality units such as the Oculus Rift and Sony's Project Morpheus. This is missing the point. Smartphones have evolved to the point where they're able to support the kind of complex virtual reality applications with multiple sensor inputs and high enough screen resolutions and with each generation of device, they have so far become more powerful in almost every respect. I don't believe these stop-gap solutions will offer the same experience as the high powered alternatives, but these are not yet commercially available. With every month, mobile processors are approaching desktop performance (and desktop processors are approaching mobile levels of power consumption). The two are going to get close enough to allow portable devices to drive virtual reality systems and I don't believe we are too far away.