The Open Source Virtual Reality platform (OSVR) is an ecosystem of hardware and software that’s working to create a standard for gaming and hardware. The OSVR hardware isn’t meant to directly compete with Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, but instead, it’s intended to be an open platform that helps spark the further the development of games and VR experiences. The best way to relate the platform is to how Android is fully opened source for others to use, yet Google helps develop its own hardware standards via its Nexus program.
The OSVR uses Apache 2.0 open source license, the same as Android, making it the leading open source software for VR, so far. OSVR ability to work across software is the essential part of the selling point. It’s able to work on phones or desktops, which Daydream or other VR OS’s are unable to do. The experiences across the different mediums are also consistent so software developers won’t be limiting their games on Android — they’ll be the same full games on Android, Linux or a Windows desktop.
Oculus Rift is an open source project, but they’re not the same level of open as OSVR. Oculus is limited in what they open source and how they do so. They have to think about how to sell more Rift headsets, while OSVR is thinking about how to create an industry standard that’ll benefit the consumer.
What is OSVR?
OSVR is an open source platform meant to inspire developers and big business to push VR technology forward. The idea is VR platforms are being built by Oculus, Valve, and Google, who are all working towards their goals and standards. The companies aren’t talking or working closely together, which means nothing is working together. The open source organization will work to create standards which Oculus and Google could both adopt, making it easier for consumers to understand how VR works and making it easier for developers to build across different VR platforms.
The openly licensed ecosystem works across Windows, Linux, Android and more in the future. Enabling developers to create VR games or apps across platforms on mobile and desktop. Developers, right now, have to consider how their game will have distortions or shortcomings based on if it’s on the Gear VR or Oculus Rift. They’re unable to build a seamless game or app on multiple platforms, making them rethink their design multiple times to fit the limited features or smaller screens. If the system is opened up, developers won’t have to build multiple ways to play a game or work with different style controllers.
In addition to being a software platform, OSVR also develops its own reference headsets. The current model is the OSVR HDK2.
What are the standout features?
The OSVR HDK1 headset isn’t lacking in specs because it’s an open source project. The specs are rivals to the Rift or Vive. The standout ones include:
- IR Faceplate with positional information at 100hz with 360-degree tracking
- Sensor hub with integrated accelerometer, gyroscope and compass
- Dual Display 2160×1200 low persistence OLED silver screen with 441 PPI running at 90 fps.
- USB 3.0
- A Belt box to prevent tangling of cables
- Thicker foam to provide a comfortable experience
Not only the hardware specs make the headset standout, but the ability to use the headset on Android, Mac, Linux, and Windows makes the headset stand out even more than others.
What are the requirements to use it?
The OSVR organization doesn’t set forth any official system requirements, but to start development or to use the default setup you need have a system running Windows 7 or higher. The headset is able to run on Linux and Android, but those are extra installs and setup. There is also a Github repo to install the necessary software to run OSVR on Mac OS.
The minimum requirements for headsets to run well tend to be around this range, depending on the headset:
- HDK 1 – A PC running at least a GTX 660 and i5 3Ghz CPU or equivalent with a minimum of 8GB of Ram
- HDK 2 – A PC running at least a GTX 970 and i5 4590 or equivalent with a minimum of 8GB of Ram.
What are the most anticipated games?
There are a number of independent, open projects to create games using OSVR ‘s SDK, but it’s also worth noting that the OSVR HDK2 supports the Steam VR platform. While not every game will work nicely, the vast majority of games that play nice with Oculus Rift (those that don’t require room scale), should work with the OSVR headsets.
What can I do beyond gaming?
Gaming is clearly a big deal for the OSVR HDK2 and other VR headsets, but there’s plenty of other great things to do with the HDK2. This includes watching 360-degree videos from a number of sources, including YouTube, which has a growing library of great VR content. Facebook also is seeing a rise in such video content.
Beyond that? There’s porn (enough said, right?), VR social apps, and even ways to use your entire PC’s desktop UI within VR. That’s just what already exists, and the potential continues to grow more and more each day.
How much is it?
The HDK 1 headset is only $299.99, but it’s not a headset that is necessarily aimed a consumers. The dev kit comes with its 5.5-inch Full HD OLED display, but future versions will have the ability to slot in a smartphone similar to how the Gear VR or Daydream works
For those looking for an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive alternative, you’ll want to pick up the yhe Hacker Development Kit 2. The HDK2 isn’t available yet but will be soon, priced at $399.
Where do I buy it?
The Razer-made OSVR headsets can be purchased directly from OSVR, though only the HDK1 is available right now. That said, if you want something that plays nice with the OSVR software standard, the Vuzix iWear 720 is on pre-order and will be compatible with OSVR games in the future.