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The next generation of virtual reality is here, and it’s big

Michael Douglas goes virtual in 1994's Disclosure.

Reality Bites

Last week, Facebook announced that its $2 billion toy – virtual reality headset Oculus Rift – will be available to consumers in the first quarter of 2016, with preorders beginning later this year. Details on price, hardware, or software have yet to be revealed, but rest assured, this thing is going to be big. If you think VR is limited to Oculus Rift rollercoaster demoes, however, you’re in for a surprise.

Vive and Let Live

If all goes as planned, Valve’s VR headset, the HTC Vive, will beat the Oculus to market by several months. And Valve has the gaming mojo behind it to have a serious impact on the VR gaming world – they’ve built some of the greatest video games of the last decade (albeit in 2D) – Portal, Half-Life, and Left 4 Dead among them. Just a few years ago, the company was playing friendly with the Oculus team – Valve’s Gabe Newell was even featured in their Kickstarter video – but when Oculus poached two of the company’s senior engineers and was later acquired by Facebook, the competition was on.

Another Matrix Reference

Sony’s Project Morpheus has a different take on the VR-utopia that awaits us all. Rather than isolating the user in her own world, Sony is determined to make virtual reality a social experience. Although the headset requires a PlayStation 4 to work, early reviews have been wildly positive – in March, Gizmodo called the Morpheus “the best VR headset yet”.

Sam’s Club

There are a few options already available to consumers, although they’re more of a workaround than a full-on software platform. Samsung Gear VR hit the market last December – the device works with Galaxy Note and Edge phones to create a VR-lite experience. And the Vortex VRTX One uses LG G3 smartphones to do much the same. But if you’re not willing to drop a couple hundred bucks just yet, give DODOcase’s Cardboard Toolkit a try.

Now go forth (and escape reality).

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