3 Augmented and Virtual Reality Headsets Coming Soon

AR and VR are poised to become the biggest technologies of 2016, but they have to be available and affordable first.

Cue the JARVIS references. Ever since CES 2016, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR, respectively) have been the talk of the town—in part because of their potential applications.

Both technologies have significant implications for the engineering community. They could be used as education tools to teach engineers the proper methods for adjusting and monitoring machinery. They could also function as visualization tools, assisting civil and structural engineers with designing optimized structures.

Whatever the industry, VR/AR headsets have potential.

As the technology progresses, more and more options for VR/AR headsets are surfacing. However, many of them are not yet available for consumers and those that are available are quite pricey.

Here is an overview of three AR/VR headsets and how close they are to market.


Microsoft HoloLens

It’s already been to space, but the HoloLens still isn’t ready for the average consumer.

This futuristic headset is a self-contained AR. It uses a built-in 3D depth-sensing camera and motion sensors to construct a virtual world over the real world. Images are projected onto the transparent holographic lens and appear to fit in to the real environment around the wearer.

Naturally, as a Microsoft product, it uses the familiar face of Windows 10.

Microsoft recently announced that the development kit for the HoloLens is available for preorder and will be shipping out to developers by the end of March. There’s no news yet on when it might become available for consumers.

The kit comes with a HoloLens device, a charger and cable, a Bluetooth Clicker, a strap and nose pads to keep it positioned, a handy carrying case and a hefty price tag.

When you can get it: March 30, 2016 for developers; TBD for consumers.

How much it goes for: USD$3000 for the development kit.


Meta 2

For those of us back on Earth, the HoloLens has a competitor in the Meta 2. They’re similar products with an eerie resemblance and a few key differences.

This may or may not be a coincidence, but Meta 2 was introduced at CES 2016 alongside the HoloLens. The announcement that its development kit is up for preorder came just one day after a similar announcement for the HoloLens.

Unlike HoloLens, the Meta 2 is a tethered headset giving it more of a “Lawnmower Man” look. As a result, it needs to be connected to a modern computer to work its AR magic. The tradeoff is that it has an extra capability in the way of hand interaction with digital content, meaning that users can grab and move digital objects as if they were real.

Another difference between this headset from Meta and its counterpart from Microsoft is the price tag. Where the HoloLens would test the wallet of most AR enthusiasts, the Meta 2 is much more affordable for those with a little extra to spend.

When you can get it: Q3 2016 for developers; TBD for consumers.

How much it goes for: USD$949 for the development kit.


HTC Vive

Of the recently announced headsets, the HTC Vive is the closest to reaching the consumer market.

The Vive is a joint effort between cellphone giant HTC and PC gaming mogul Steam to bring virtual reality to a gaming platform. The VR system is fully integrated into Steam and in case you were worried, there are already games to go with it.

HTC and Steam recently announced that the Vive is available for preorder for the consumer market. The kit ships with a Vive headset, two wireless controllers (far left and far right) and two cube-shaped base stations for 360° room tracking in a similar capacity to Xbox’s Kinect system.

Although it will be available for anyone to buy, the Vive still has a price tag that could keep all but the most dedicated gamers from purchasing the unit.

When you can get it: April 5, 2016 for consumers.

How much it goes for: USD$799 plus tax.