Virtual Reality or “VR” is one of the newest and most exciting developments in the tech industry. While traditional forms of entertainment employ a combination of 2D images and sound, VR could potentially let you engage up to four of your five senses (sight, sound, touch, and smell). The touch and smell aspects of VR are still not available on a large scale to the public, since the devices required to experience touch or smell in a virtual world are either too expensive or still in the experimental stages. But as of now, you could simply purchase a cheap phone-based head-mounted VR kit and get a taste of the infinite possibilities that this new technology brings to the consumer.
For those who want the most premium VR experience right out of the box, you have two options- the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. In order to consume VR content, you must have two things- the VR headset, and a computer that connects to the headset. Either of the two VR headsets that we mentioned will set you back by around 500 to 700 dollars, and on top of that, you need to make sure that your gaming system is powerful enough to meet the minimum requirements for running VR games on these headsets. In case you don’t know what the minimum system requirements are, here is a quick rundown-
- CPU should be an Intel Core i5 4590 or AMD FX 8350
- Graphics card must be an NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290
- 4GB or more of RAM
- USB 2.0 or faster port needed
- Windows 7,8, or 10
Keep in mind; these are just the minimum requirements. For a smooth VR experience, your PC must be able to sustain a framerate of 90 to 120. This is because both the Vive and the Rift run at a 90Hz refresh rate, and if the system cannot pump out enough frames per second, the motion within your VR world could appear choppy. For the optimal experience we recommend that your PC have at least a 6th generation i5, along with the GTX 1060 graphics card (for AMD users, it will be a Ryzen 5 processor, along with an RX 480 graphics card).
You also need to set up the room inside your house, which you will be using for playing VR games and movies. Clear out all loose objects within a 10-foot radius, since you will have absolutely no clue of your surroundings in the real world while you are walking around inside the virtual space. If there is a fan or light hanging right above you on the ceiling, make sure to reposition it so that you do not accidentally hurt yourself. Find a good way to route the cables from the VR headset to your computer; otherwise, you might accidentally trip over them. Finally, you should spend some extra money to acquire a few cool VR accessories that will spice up your overall experience by enhancing the level of immersion.
That last part is exactly what this article is all about, we are going to review some of the finest VR accessories that you can add into your virtual reality game room to further augment the experience of gaming in a virtual space. Because the VR headset and controller are just one part of the story, and as you delve deeper into the world of VR, you will find yourself searching for ways to further enhance your sense of engagement with the surroundings. After all, VR isn’t just about seeing the world around you in a 360° 3-Dimensional manner, it is also about interacting with that world using your body.
The current generation of VR handheld controllers do a decent enough job of converting your motion into inputs within the game, but the future holds so much more in store for us. You will have masks that emit complex odors, change the temperature based on the in-game environment, and vests that provide haptic feedback through extremely complicated actuators and pressure generation systems built into the very fabric of the garment. But all that VR tech is at least 3 to 5 years away from hitting the public market. For now, we shall settle with stuff like HOTAS (Hands On Throttle and Stick) for airplane games, and dedicated VR gaming headsets designed specifically for use with VR head-mounted displays. In case you don’t want to fumble around in the midst of wires and hate the feeling of having your head tethered to a computer on some desk, there are portable backpack style computer systems loaded with powerful hardware that you can strap onto your back. Let us take a look at some of these cool VR accessories –
- HP OMEN X VR Backpack
- Turtle Beach Stealth 350VR Gaming Headset
- TPCast Wireless Adapter for HTC Vive
- Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick
- EVOLUTION VR Rifle Adapter
- Conclusion –
Designed with one goal- to provide its user the freedom to move wherever they want within a VR world, without having to worry about cables. It is basically a specially designed computer carrier that is strapped around your back, and it comes with two detachable battery packs to make sure that gaming sessions last for multiple hours before you have to recharge the system.
Remember that one dude from the Marvel Avengers movie with a jetpack strapped to his back? This contraption from HP looks somewhat similar, except it doesn’t make you fly around like a bird in the sky. Well technically, you can do much more than fly around inside a virtual reality space but that is not the point. The PA1000-010 OMEN X backpack is a specially designed portable computer carrier constructed from super lightweight fibers with a harness that wraps around your shoulders and waist. It is designed to carry the HP OMEN X P1000-010 and P1000-020 compact desktop computer. But now you are probably thinking “what is an HP OMEN X Compact Computer?” Simply put, it is a powerful desktop computer, crammed into a chassis the size of a 15.6” laptop. Without the display of course, because then it would technically be a laptop.
The Omen X Compact Desktop is currently available in the following configuration- Intel 7th generation Core i7 7820HK CPU, NVIDIA GTX 1080 8GB GDDR5X Graphics card, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB SSD with Windows 10 installed from the factory. It comes with HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Type C, Display Port, and RJ45 ports. HP has also managed to stuff an internal battery inside this super-compact desktop computer, so it can function in standalone mode when strapped to your back. There is a docking station for the OMEN X desktop, it also includes built-in HDMI and USB ports for connecting external displays or a VR headset when the computer is being charged on the dock.
The PA1000-010 VR backpack also comes with two battery holsters that are carefully positioned in the waist section so that the weight from each battery is evenly balanced across your body, allowing you to move around freely with the backpack strapped on. Each removable battery pack can provide up to 1 hour of backup for the OMEN X desktop, and since these packs support fast-charging, you could theoretically keep playing forever by charging one pack on the dock while the other one is being used.
- Extremely lightweight and comfortable
- Dual battery pack holsters
- Charge one battery pack while you use the other one, fast-charging supported
- Angled base for superior weight balance and heat dissipation
- Breathable mesh structure on the shoulder straps mitigates long-term fatigue and aids with sweat dissipation
- Foam padding on the underside
- Weighs just 7.41 pounds with both battery packs installed
- Top-mounted headset clip with 3-in-1 cable
- More expensive than a traditional laptop backpack
- Even with all the weight reduction measures, you have to move around with nearly 10 pounds of weight strapped to your back (including the desktop and batteries)
While most gaming headsets are designed to be used in conjunction with a desktop or laptop, this sleek gaming-oriented piece from Turtle Beach is specifically designed and tuned to be paired with a head-mounted virtual reality kit. You could go with a pair of mediocre in-ears that will cause more confusion than solve problems, or you could get a 350VR and own your opponents with deadly precision in online multiplayer shooting games.
Turtle Beach is one of those headset makers who always prefer function over form. Not to say that their products don’t look good, but when you compared a set of Turtle Beach headphones to some similarly priced model from Razer or SteelSeries, you immediately notice the lack of flashy lights and over-the-top “gaming” inspired design that appeals mostly to 12-year olds. Yet, when you put on a Turtle Beach headset, the first thing that comes to mind is how precise the audio quality is. You hear every single noise around you, every footstep, even the sound that the pin of a grenade makes when it drops on the ground. You know exactly which direction it is coming from, and then that information helps you annihilate any foe sneaking up on you from the side or behind.
The Stealth 350VR is loaded with powerful 50mm drivers, and the unique bass-boost feature will automatically amp low-end frequencies whenever the automated system detects the need to artificially boost bass output. Microphone monitoring is a feature of this headset, which lets you hear how loud you sound on the mic in real-time, within the headset. The fabric-wrapped memory foam ear cups ensure supreme comfort even after 7-8 hours of continuous gaming. A removable noise canceling microphone acts as the cherry on the top of this already incredible wireless headset. There are onboard audio control dials, which let you adjust volume and mute/ unmute the microphone without having to take your hands too far away from the VR headset.
And since this is a headset designed for VR gaming, the last thing you need is more wires to entangle yourself in while moving around in virtual space. Which is why, the Stealth 350VR only needs one wire, and that is the audio line for the removable noise-canceling mic (this cable is detachable). There is an internal battery, which can power the 350VR for up to 30 hours, and there are specially designed notches and cutouts in the headband to allow for free passage of cables between the VR headset and your PC. In case you are wondering which VR platforms this headset is compatible with, we are happy to tell you that it supports all major VR platforms including the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PSVR.
- Built-in battery
- Sleek, lightweight design with cutouts in the headband for cables on your VR headset
- Removable noise-canceling mic
- Mic monitoring
- 50 mm drivers
- Bass-boost with onboard audio controls
- The plastic headband feels slightly flimsy at times
- The bass is designed for gaming, doesn’t work so well while watching movies
There are certain VR games that involve swords, guns, shields, etc., which you play by making many movements in real life with your hands and feet. And making all these movements is hard with a plethora of cables hanging from your headset, and running all the way to the PC. TPCast, a Chinese company has set out to fix this issue. Have they succeeded?
Both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are what we call “tethered” VR headsets. This means that the headsets themselves are connected to a computer via cables. There is an HDMI cable, a USB cable, and a power cable if you are operating the Vive. All these cables mean that you will have to tread carefully while exploring a virtual world inside your headset, because in real life there are wires lying around which can get entangled around you, causing you to trip or yank something by accident. People go to great extents in order to fix these issues, some even use ceiling-mounted cable routing to safely direct the wires between you and the PC in a manner that lets you move freely on the floor of your VR gaming room.
Just after the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift were released to the public market, TPCast, a Chinese company, announced that they are working on a means to convert both of these “tethered” VR headsets into wireless systems. And they did do it; there are two separate models of the TPCast wireless adapter- one for the Vive, and the other for the Rift. You can check out the second model right here, if you own an Oculus Rift. The TPCast adapter isn’t a singular unit that you attach onto the headset. In fact, it is a network of devices that communicate with each other through Bluetooth in order to transmit data between the PC and the VR headset.
The first component is a transmitter/ receiver that attaches directly onto the headband of your Vive or Rift, this module is connected to a waist-mounted battery pack that also has a second transmitter attached to it. Then, you have a specially configured TPCast WIFI router that comes inside the package, along with a final transmitter/ receiver that attaches to your desktop or laptop. You must use the included dual-band router for wireless VR, and not your regular home WIFI router (although this router can substitute your home WIFI, it also has four Ethernet ports on the back). The wearable part is powered by an Anker PowerCore 20100 external USB power pack; this goes onto your waist and is connected to the headset with a wire. Check out this video to learn more about to how to setup the TPCast wireless adapter for your HTC Vive.
- Allows for complete freedom of movement in competitive VR games such as Echo Arena
- Max transmission resolution of 2K
- Battery pack lasts for 4-5 hours
- Hot-swappable battery
- Hard to set up and configure
- Might become incompatible with future versions of the Vive and Rift headsets
Ever tried to play a flight simulation game with a keyboard and mouse? Yeah, don’t do that. While keyboard + mouse combo has its place in PC gaming, there are certain things that it was not designed to do. If you are a hardcore simulation game fan, you will settle for nothing less than a stick for games such as Elite Dangerous.
Thrustmaster makes a wide range of input devices for PC gamers including wheels, headsets, controllers, and joysticks. They are renowned for making high-quality products that are officially supported by a majority of developers that create racing and flight simulation games. If you have an affinity for realism, then you will accept no substitute for the Thrustmaster Warthog. It is a HOTAS (Hands on Throttle and Stick), which is a replica of the joystick and throttle control scheme found on aircraft and spaceships. If you are into games such as Elite Dangerous and Kerbal Space Program, then a HOTAS is a must-have in your VR gaming room.
The Warthog is the best HOTAS on the market right now, and it is quite simply a lot of features for the money that you pay (even though the price is quite high). The Warthog gets its name from the US Air Force A10-C attack aircraft and is an accurate replica of the stick and throttle system used in the actual aircraft itself. In fact, it even uses the same materials found in the actual Warthog attack aircrafts’ controls- steel for the joystick, throttle handle, and base. It weighs more than 14 pounds and features 55 fully programmable buttons and dual 4-direction hat switches with built-in push buttons on each one.
If you are trying to simulate a low-light or nighttime flying situation, you will find the five programmable LED’s on the control panel to be very useful. The metal base features a trim wheel and 15 programmable buttons, which boast resistance figures similar to what you would get on the buttons from an actual aircraft. The 2 or 3-position switches made from industrial metal also simulate realistic pressure levels when you flip them. In case you wish to lower or increase the resistance of the throttle lever, you simply have to adjust the position of the “friction wheel” in the control panel.
- E.A.R.T (Hall Effect AccuRate Technology)
- 3D magnetic sensors that retain their precision and feel even after several years of hardcore use
- 16-bit resolution
- 5-coil spring system with 0 dead zones
- Detachable metal handle with 3kg weighted base
- Pull and Push throttle with disengageable afterburner
- More expensive than most other HOTAS options
- May require a firmware update to be compatible with certain systems
This isn’t like one of those 3-D printed poles that you see on YouTube, used by VR gamers to generate a stable platform for fixing their controllers to while playing a shooter game. The Evolution Rifle Adapter comes with adjustable front and rear bars; it even has rails for a foregrip attachment.
We all love to play shooter games in VR, since the immersion is on a whole another level compared to traditional 2D gaming. Shooting feels much more natural, and when you add in the fact that you have to move your hands and legs around in order to reload or take cover, it makes the entire experience much more exciting and realistic. Operating a handgun with a VR controller is simple enough- you pull it out from the holster and point it at the target, then you pull the trigger. However, with a rifle or SMG that has 2 different holding points, you are going to be very inaccurate if you try to simulate the grips with your bare hands holding the controllers apart in the air, constantly trying to guess where the scope is or how far apart the handles are on the rifle that you are shooting in-game.
Which is why EVOLUTION has come up with probably the single most important accessory for any VR gamer who is into shooters- an adapter that you can modify to match the actual grip type and length of the long firearm that you are wielding in game. It even comes with a realistic stock, which you can use as a cheek rest while operating the sights on a sniper rifle, which allows you to be far more precise with your shot placement compared to someone who is using his bare hands to hold the controllers.
The EVOLUTION adapter comes with a sling that is very useful for when you are switching weapons in game, for example- you come around a corner, scope in and fire a couple shots with your assault rifle. Then you detect somebody sneaking up on you, and need to pull out your sidearm, so you release the rifle and it stays around your shoulder thanks to the sling, you then switch to a secondary, and when you are done, you can come back for the rifle, which is much easier to access thanks to the sling. The tubes are metal, while the attachments and holders are made from mold-injected Nylon 66 (far stronger than standard ABS plastic).
- Extremely customizable, you can increase or decrease the length of the adapter to suit the size of the weapon in-game, and you can even adjust the grip angles for both the front and rear grip
- Comes with a sling, useful for switching weapons
- The stock greatly increases accuracy while firing scoped rifles in-game
- Switching between weapon configurations takes a while, since you have to unscrew and re-screw the locks on the tubes every time you make an adjustment
- The included strap has no padding, so it might be a little uncomfortable on your neck
All of the products that we reviewed in this article are meant for serious VR gamers, although certain ones like the TPCast wireless adapter and EVOLUTION VR Rifle Adapter will make life a lot easier for even the most casual of VR gamers. Decide which product you need, based on the type of VR game that you play. Are you into shooters? Well then, the Rifle Adapter is a must-buy for you. Do you like Elite Dangerous and Kerbal Space Program? In that case, it is well worth investing into a high-quality HOTAS such as the Thrustmaster Warthog. If you are new to VR gaming and wish to upgrade your old gaming system because it is incapable of playing the latest VR games, check out the HP OMEN X Compact Desktop P1000-010. It pairs up with the VR backpack to deliver a truly seamless gaming experience, free of wires and obstructions. Yeah, you will be carrying 10 pounds of weight, which includes a desktop and a battery pack, but hey- that is a really nice workout while gaming, and gives you the authentic feel of a soldier running through a war zone with a heavy load strapped onto his back. After all, VR is all about the immersive experience, isn’t it?