LG's SteamVR headset is a bulky yet promising HTC Vive alternative. For the past year, the only two contenders in the PC virtual reality space were the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. Not anymore. A few days ago, LG announced its own PC-driven VR headset, which was made in collaboration with Valve. That means that there are now two headsets -- the Vive and the LG -- that utilizes Valve's SteamVR tracking technology. We took a closer look at a prototype of the LG headset here at GDC 2017, and though it could certainly use some improvement, we think it has a lot of potential.LG's SteamVR headset is not small by any stretch of the imagination. From some angles, it almost looks like a helmet rather than a headset. Its design is not unlike the PSVR, with an all-plastic build that encompasses everything from the eyepiece to the headband that holds it in place. There's a nice smooth surface on the front of the goggles, which is a stark contrast to the HTC Vive's pockmarked face. But if you hold the LG headset to the light, you'll be able to see the various sensors underneath the smooth veneer. Also on the front is a camera lens, which LG says would be used for passthru view eventually. You put on the LG headset by wearing it as if it were a backwards baseball cap, with the rear band wrapping around the back of the head and the front piece pointing upward. You can then tighten it around your head by ratcheting the sides in, and by adjusting a scroll wheel on the back. It all feels really comfy and snug, like it's giving your skull a big bear hug. It did loosen a little bit during gameplay, however, which could be due to the headset's rather hefty weight shifting slightly as you move around. One particular design detail that I really like, is that you can extend the eyepiece, flip it up and then bring it back down over your eyes again without much effort. This makes jumping in and out of virtual reality that much easier, which could be useful if you have kids and pets running around, or if you just need a quick sip of water in between killing alien invaders. The wand controllers look very similar to the ones with the Vive, but instead of circular ends, they're angular and blockier. They also feel better thanks to a textured grip on the sides that make them easier to hold. Another similarity to the Vive is that the LG headset uses the same Lighthouse tracking tech that Valve developed -- LG even made its own base stations. Seeing that both hardware was made to Valve's specifications, the similarities aren't too surprising. According to LG, the headset has a 3.64-inch display with a 1440 x 1280 resolutin for each lens, a refresh rate of 90Hz, plus a 110-degree field of view. Right now, the IPD can't be adjusted, there's no built-in headphones and, as we said, it's a little heavy. But it's only just a prototype after all. LG has said it's open to changing the design as it gets more and more user feedback. I only tried the LG SteamVR headset out for about 15 minutes, but I was suitably impressed. I batted an electric racquetball around, played a longbow mini game and watched an abstract ballerina twirl its way around me. The display quality is great, and the screen door effect (visible pixels) was minimal enough that I forgot it was there after awhile. The reaction times from me flailing around the controllers were on point as well. On the whole, I had a pretty positive first impression. The overall design is surprisingly solid for just a prototype, and the performance was good as well. A lot could change between now and when it comes to market, of course, so we'll have to wait and see if the final LG headset can take on its VR predecessors. Unfortunately, that might take awhile, as LG won't say how much it is nor when it's set to make its consumer debut.
Tags Sakura first looks gaming gdc gdc2017 headset lg personal computing personalcomputing steamvr valve vr wearables LG steam LG steam VR LG steam VR headset HTC Vive alternative virtual reality htc vive
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