ZEISS recently announced a special hardware and software virtual reality package called the ONE CONNECT that’s meant to allow users to play PC VR games through SteamVR with only their smartphones, and the company has announced that the device is going to be making a showing at this year’s CES. The allure of the package is mainly on the software side, in the form of special software that can allow PC VR game streaming to a smartphone that’s plugged into the computer via USB. The software passes the smartphone’s sensor data over to the PC to emulate how a higher-end VR headset works, and also comes with a pair of Bluetooth Low-Energy controllers that sport 3 degrees of freedom, similar to Google’s Daydream controller.
The kit will be hitting store shelves in the US sometime this spring, with a price tag of $129. To be clear, you’ll need your own smartphone VR headset, but just about any one will work, from simply tying a shoestring to a Cardboard headset all the way to using ZEISS’ own high-end VR ONE headset. Thanks to a collaboration between ZEISS and Valve, it will be compatible with SteamVR games out of the box. The requirement to have a big room available for positional tracking is also omitted with this kit, since there is no positional tracking. Unfortunately, that means games that use room-scale tracking are a no go. A powerful PC is still a necessity, but once you have a decent PC and recent iOS or Android smartphone all rigged up, ZEISS says that the experience will rival more expensive PC-based VR headsets.
The obvious bite here, at first glance, is that you can already do this with the RiftCat app or a simple Cardboard-compatible VNC app. Pairing up a set of compatible controllers with motion sensors on board will mimic this experience. Where the ZEISS VR ONE CONNECT system differentiates itself is in simplicity and ease of use, more than anything else; while cheaper DIY solutions involving RiftCat may require a degree of technical expertise or even a rooted Android device, the ZEISS VR ONE CONNECT system can work almost effortlessly out of the box, so long as it’s hooked up to a decent smartphone and computer. Presumably, those with hardware that’s not quite up to standard for VR gaming can still use the kit to play Daydream games if their phone is compatible, or can use it to play less demanding VR games from a less-than-stellar PC through workarounds that can force SteamVR and other VR software to run despite a computer not meeting minimum specs.