3SIXT is a Mobile and Tablet Accessories company and one of their latest product is a VR headset. In 2016, there’s plenty of ways to create 360° videos, so having affordable devices to consume that content is important.
3SIXT Virtual Reality Headset uses your existing smartphone (compatible with devices between 4.7″ and 6″ displays) and allows you to experience immersive experiences. The headset looks similar to Samsung’s GearVR, however is much more like Google Cardboard in terms of functionality. Before putting on the VR headset, you need to fire up the content you’ll be consuming, like a 360 YouTube video or even the Cardboard Camera app you’ve used to capture environments. Essentially anywhere you see the glasses icon that allows you to split content into side-by-side for each eye, you can use with this headset.
Something I struggle with when using the GearVR is the ability to share experiences with friends and family. If you have a great experience, your inclination is to remove the headset, pass it to another person and allow them to experience the same thing. Unfortunately the GearVR has a light sensor that triggers when you remove it and in an effort to power save, it thinks you want to end the experience and closes out of the Oculus app. This leaves the next participant puzzled by starting fresh, then you have to do the weird diagnosis of what they should take to get back to where you were.
With the 3SIXT VR Headset, the who front of the device opens up so you can place your phone in the spring-loaded clasps to secure it. With the content loaded, hit play and close the cover, then place it on your head. There’s plenty of adjustment available including the head strap, focal distance (55mm – 75mm) and even pupil distance which respects that while we’re all humans, we’re each built a little differently.
For the most part the headset works well for its simplistic objective, but what you don’t get is a VR platform like Oculus and there’s also no interactivity through the headset, however all the standard bluetooth accessories are still on the table. This means if you find a game that offers support for a controller, this would still work.
The 3SIXT VR Headset also features a removable cover which allows smartphones to ventilate as well as strategically placed ventilation holes allowing you to continue to use the headset and your earphones while charging your smartphone so the fun never has to end.
Inside the black pastic body lies a high quality acrylic 42mm aspheric lenses and they’ve done a great job at making a comfortable headset, despite it being a deeper protrusion from your face that risked being too heavy. Instead they have the devices weighs in at 378g, so weight isn’t an issue, even with your phone in the end of it.
With specific phones (Samsung Galaxy S7 for instance) you will have issues with the clasp mechanisms pushing on the volume buttons which brings down the volume UI overlay, not something you want when trying to be immersed. It’s hard to say exactly which phones this will and wont be an issue for, but in an effort to support all phones the mechanism they chose to use does create a pretty big issue. The other problem was getting the orientation of the content correct. In the support documentation their advice is to simply remove your phone, rotate it and put it back in. That would work well, except if you have rotation lock disabled as you phone is position in the horizontal when adding it to the device, then when you close the front cover, you’re effectively rotating it 90 degrees and this can confuse it easily.
Price & Avialability
The 3SIXT VR Headet is available now for A$39.95 from News Link, Optus, Virgin and Telstra stores.
The device is dearer than what you can get a Google Cardboard for, however the head straps alone are probably worth the price of admission as the length of time you’ll participate in a VR experience while having to hold a device to your face is significantly lower than one that’s comfortable to wear hands-free. It is 1/3 the price of a GearVR, but don’t think you’re buying the same device, you’re not. The GearVR is a platform that is constantly evolving, updating and expanding and this headset relies on the apps on your phone and has no hardware connection to your phone, instead relying just on the acellerometer to do the work as you pan your head left and right, or swivel on your office chair.
Perhaps the most appropriate application for the 3SIXT VR headset is in business or education markets where you could purchase a cheap android phone for around $100, then the headset for $40 and be out the door for less than $150 per person. If you have to buy 10 or 20 of them, it does add up, but still lands at a far more affordable option a far more sustainable and comfortable option for groups of people to consume 360 content.
For more information, head over to 3sixtgear.com