Anglo-American outfit GameFace Labs have been hard at work releasing iteration after iteration of their self-named GameFace mobile VR Headset. We’re referring to it as ‘mobile’ since it is a self-contained unit with on-board processing and, crucially, no tether to a PC or external computational unit. This frees the user up to spin on the spot without getting trapped in a coil of wire. Quite whether this is a reasonable thing to do, given that your are essentially blind, is the grounds for another ‘wii-tard’ hall of infamy Personally, I can’t wait – I’m sure I’ll be among them, but that’s all part of the fun.
Founder of the VR renaissance, Palmer Luckey, has been outspoken in his support of mobile technology and is clearly enthusiastic of its potential, but the clear disparity here is that Palmer and co. at Oculus have chosen to focus their efforts on PC-based hardware for its graphical grunt and won’t be turning to mobile tech until they feel it is up to the task. With the sheer weight of intellectual ability at Oculus’ disposal, you’d think GameFace would be mad to disagree and forge their own path, but that they have done so and, to be fair, things are looking pretty good. GameFace Labs already have some of mobile gaming’s biggest development houses on board, so things should progress quite rapidly as the hardware and software development kits start to take shape. On that no
What is important to note, is that the GameFace is still not even at development kit-release stage yet. With the anticipated launch of DK1 around the festive season 2014. Rumours are that they are showing off version 5 of their prototype at this month’s E3. Follow us and we’ll keep you posted. At this point it is expected that their showpiece 2560×1440 display will be driven by the ‘world’s most powerful GPU’, the nVidia Tegra K1. It’s got 192 cores and is supposedly more powerful than a PS3. I’m beaming as I type this. We’re talking about a fully immersive, stereoscopic PS3-driven virtual environment STRAPPED TO YOUR FACE! How awesome is that?
It is untethered, so complete freedom to move around without tangling yourself up.
On-board graphics processing, no need for external PC.
High-definition 2.5k (1440p) LCD screen
It is untethered, so you have complete freedom to move around and break things.
On-board graphics processing isn’t up to delivering high-quality images in 1440p at framerates that let your brain relax and ‘believe’.
Only Android compatible (at present)
Currently an LCD Screen (with associated latency issues), though this is only in early versions.
So there are arguments both ways at this point, but I’ll reiterate that this is a pre-alpha release version of the hardware. When developers get their hands on it, they’ll have far more feedback to deal with (especially since you can expect the devs to have experienced a variety of GameFace competitor’s products). We expect a lot to change between now and the consumer release. Gameface Labs website, which might be out of sync, reports the specs as *merely* 1080p, so perhaps this is one of the version 5 features we’ll be seeing at CES. Either things are out of whack, or GameFace Labs have decided to drop it back to leverage more performance from existing hardware. While this might seem to be a backward-step, latency is far more important that resolution for tricking the subconcious mind into feeling ‘present’. Regardless, we’ll find out in a couple of weeks. For now, here’s what to expect:
For a quick overview of the specs (Version 4)
Android OS with native gamepad support
nVidia Tegra 4 GPU
WiFi + Bluetooth + GPS
Accelerometer, Gyroscope and Magnetometer
USB 2.0, MicroSD, Video Out and 3.5mm audio jack
Get updates to these specs from GameFace Labs. The updated specs due for confirmation at E3 are:
Quick overview of updated specs (Version 5)
nVidia Tegra K1 (192 Core, 2.3Ghz GPU – “The world’s most advanced GPU”)
Both of these upgrades should drastically reduce latency give that the K1 has aced all tests thus far. If they can close the reported gap between features and performance then we could be looking at the main contender for the VR throne, at very least the mobile one.