This paper will cover the fascinating world of virtual reality and inform of the necessary PC requirements involved. Virtual reality technology has been around for a long time, however, due to its expensive nature, it has not been readily available for the public to use. However, the prices of these virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have been dropping recently, and software developers have taken notice by releasing a large amount of new virtual reality applications and games. Virtual reality is a fascinating technology, however, to use it at its peak potential one needs to be using a virtual reality headset connected to a powerful PC as it is the best choice. Before you get too excited to experience this technological marvel for yourself, virtual reality requires some severe PC performance requirements. The following paper will discuss the current and future state of virtual reality, its many uses, and most importantly, what performance level your computer you will require.
Virtual reality (VR) is a technological phenomenon that is currently spreading through the entire globe in many different forms and devices. However, this paper will discuss the requirements your computer needs to run virtual reality games and applications, specifically on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. This topic is essential as virtual reality technology is finally becoming inexpensive. However, it is going to need a serious PC build to perform well. This information is crucial to learn before a large amount of money is spent on a virtual reality headset as some computers will lack the performance requirements needed to run it properly. Virtual reality is going to have a wide range of fascinating uses shortly such as video games, NASA training simulations, virtual field trips, and advancements in the medical field. While this all sounds fascinating, wasting money on a virtual reality headset you can’t use due to a weak or outdated PC would be foolish.
What exactly is virtual reality? According to Cnet.com, “Virtual reality is a computer-generated environment that lets you experience a different reality.” Virtual reality involves a headset that fits around your head and eyes. Your entire field of vision is computer generated, which gives users the feeling like they are ‘in the game itself.’ Virtual reality comes in a few different forms, ranging from cheap headsets that work with your smartphone or the more expensive and advanced kinds (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive) which require a powerful PC. Both devices will be discussed in this paper. Virtual reality is also going to play a serious part in the entertainment industry of the future as concerts are live-streamed to people all over the world. One could go to a live show on the opposite side of the planet instantly without leaving their couch! Artistry and design are two other areas that virtual reality can help dramatically as virtual reality gives its user an optimized control method and the creative virtual environment to design with. Imagine putting on your headset and painting a virtual picture in real-time with the strokes of your hands. Obviously, one of the most exciting areas of virtual reality use is with gaming, and we are in store for some truly immersive virtual reality games in the future as virtual reality gaming becomes more popular.
Virtual reality is going to have significant medical advances as well in both psychology and medicine. Those suffering from mental illnesses such as PTSD can put on the headset and get transported to a field of roses on a warm summer day. Surgeons are using virtual reality games that are designed to teach themselves and their pupils’ complicated surgeries. When buying a car or a house, what better way is there than to inspect the item than to actually get inside it and see it for yourself? Virtual reality provides users with the ability to literally do anything and be anywhere. Virtual field trips at school will teach kids about the planets by visiting them themselves, all from the safety of their classroom.
For virtual reality devices that require a powerful PC, one of the most popular is the Oculus Rift which ranges around $599 and offers an amazing virtual reality experience. It works with both Oculus and SteamVR platforms and provides a 110* field of view. Its refresh rate is 90Hz and features 1,080 by 1200 resolution per eye. Sounds great, but is your PC ready to run it? Many modern hardcore PC gamers most likely already have the performance needed however for the rest of us running outdated rigs, might need to upgrade a few things. Per Oculus.com, the Oculus Rift would require a PC with at least an NVIDIA GTX970 / AMD 290 or higher video card to operate properly. By the way, that GTX970 ranges around $350 itself! For the processor requirements, anything less than an Intel i5-4590 will not work. The Oculus Rift also requires at least 8GB of RAM and available HDMI 1.3 video output. Finally, two USB 3.0 ports and Windows 7 or newer is needed. Those requirements are quite hefty, although the performance of the Oculus Rift speaks for itself. These requirements can also be used as a general idea for other types of virtual reality headsets that use computers.
Along with the high PC requirements of virtual reality, there are several other areas that will need attention for a great virtual reality experience. Aside from the PC and virtual reality headset, one needs a controller (the Oculus Rift includes an Xbox one controller or a DualShock 4 pad) and an anti-fatigue mat that you can comfortably and safely walk on. Having enough space to move around it is something that is very important as well as one of the greatest benefits of virtual reality is it requiring you to be active. Finally, don’t forget your Internet! If your virtual reality use is going to be online, make sure your Internet speeds and reliability are optimal.
Another contender in the fight for virtual reality supremacy for PC-based systems is HTC’s Vive. This device requires similar PC hardware requirements to the Oculus Rift such as requiring at minimal, the same GTX 970 or equivalent AMD card. The Vive also requires the same minimum CPU as the Oculus Rift; an Intel Corei5 4590, as well as needing Windows 7 SP1 or newer. However, the HTC Vive requires only 4GB of RAM compared to the Rift’s 8GB and it only needs a single USB 2.0 or faster port, compared to the Rift’s necessity for 2 USB 3.0 ports. The HTC Vive is also more expensive, priced around $799.
While these 2 virtual reality devices are similar, there are numerous strengths and weaknesses of each system. Oculus’s popularity right now is soaring as it came out with more games at launch and it is significantly cheaper than the Vive. On the other hand, the Vive looks more futuristic and comes with 2 controllers with the bundle. The Oculus’s cost of its touch controllers brings it around the same price as the Rift though. With either product, you are going to be completely satisfied. While Oculus might currently have the best virtual reality games, apps, and movies, the HTC Vive 2 is on the horizon and there is talk about a massive amount of new games and applications.
These high-end PC specs required by the Oculus Rift are needed because virtual reality uses a high framerate and if it drops, the user can become ill quickly. A tradition 1080p game at 60Hz requires 123 million shaded pixels per second compared to Oculus Rift’s 2160×1200 at 90HZ dual display using 233 million pixels per second. Also, any performance drop in framerate or latency will be obvious and eliminate the virtual reality ‘feel’. Per Oculus, these specs should stay the same for the current edition of the Rift which in time will make it cheaper. One of the main drawbacks of purchasing a virtual reality headset is the high cost and low availability of games. It is expensive to develop virtual reality devices as well as games, so many companies are waiting for technology to increase to the point where virtual reality technology will become cheaper to work with.
Not everyone knows how to even check and see if their PC is up to the task of running virtual reality, however, Valve’s SteamVR is a free-to-download test to see if you can run either the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. This tool offers an extensive amount of data of your PC as well as tells you exactly what hardware you will need to upgrade. No guesswork is required and as easy as that sounds, one could even take the simpler route and just buy a PC as companies like Oculus make pre-built PC’s specifically for their virtual reality headsets that are somewhat cost friendly.
For those who want to experience virtual reality, however, are on a budget, there are several ways you can build a budget PC that will work just fine without all the bells and whistles of a performance rig. For the low price of $892, the following build will be sufficient for VR use with the Oculus Rift and will not break the bank. Starting off for the processor, after research, it was discovered that instead of the pricey GTX 970 graphics card and other expensive hardware, one could switch to AMD parts since the Sapphire Nitro R9 390 scores higher than the GTX 970 by about 14% and is cheaper. For the CPU, an AMD FX350 will be sufficient and only cost around $120. For the rest of the parts, an MSI 970 Gaming motherboard would range at around $85, 8GB Corsair DDR3 RAM would be $45, and a 240SSD and 2TB HDD could be used at a combined price of around $130. Finally, a Corsair 650w PSU at $50 would be all that is needed, followed by a case which usually costs around $120. In conclusion, we have a PC that comes to less than a thousand dollars and can be even cheaper if needed. I chose to use somewhat older parts for this build as I wanted to stress how a user does not need the best of everything to be able to experience virtual reality.
There are many ways virtual reality technology is going change the world and the first step in the process is making sure you have a virtual reality-ready computer. By following Oculus’s and HTC’s minimum PC requirements, one can create a rig that has enough power to run any type of virtual reality simulation you throw at it. While those requirements will run both virtual reality platforms well, it is recommended to go above and beyond those requirements. When in doubt, refer to the free to download SteamVR tool from Valve to critique your current system and remember, if you need to upgrade something, get the best you can afford at the time as virtual reality technology’s system requirements will continue to grow just like everything else, and as always, happy gaming!
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