Today is something of a milestone in VR history, or at least this era of VR history. Starting today (according to Engadget) you can walk into Best Buy and purchase a VR visor. In this case it's Samsung's Gear VR Innovator Edition and it requires a Galaxy Note 4 to power it.
The age of VR is upon us it seems. We know HTC's Vive will be here before the end of the year, Sony's Project Morpheus is launching in the first half of 2016 and Oculus Rift can't be that far behind. Valve also talks vaguely about other SteamVR form factors coming from different companies.
A while back Razor announced OSVR (Open Source VR), a VR visor with an open source design. You can buy a dev kit from Razor for $199 (they're suppose to ship in June) or you'll be able to build your own (download schematics at http://osvr.com/hardware.html). Additionally anyone will be able to develop for OSVR since the software will also be open source.
At this point it's getting hard to get too excited about yet another VR visor that's coming soon, but one interesting thing that sets OSVR apart is a partnership with Leap Motion. In case you're not familiar, Leap Motion makes a little device that sits on your desk and lets you use your hands to control software. I have one and while it actually works pretty well, it mostly convinced me that using motion controls to control a PC can be really tiring.
But Razor and Leap are working together to create a faceplate for the Razor OSVR visor that has Leap's technology built in. The idea is that the visor will be able to track your hands without the need for external cameras.
While VR visors are old news at this point (at least until they begin shipping in greater numbers), but VR input is still an interesting challenge. Remember that a VR visor renders you blind to the real world so something as simple as picking up a controller is going to be a challenge. If your hands are the controllers well, problem solved. This seems like a problem that Leap has had the solution to for some time. I don't really want to sit at my desk hovering my hands in place over a Leap sensor to manipulate an on-screen image, but using my hands naturally in a VR environment seems ideal, at least in theory. This could be good news for Leap, and in a blog post they say this is"the first in a future lineup of virtual reality headsets with embedded Leap Motion hardware and software."
In related OSVR news, the organization issued a press release announcing "more than 20 research institutions are joining the OSVR development community as part of the OSVR™ Academia program." Each institution will be provided with OSVR development kits.
This makes sense for the universities involved since they're able to tear into both hardware and software and modify them at will, but it's a smart move for OSVR as well. Students will be hitting the job market with experience in OSVR rather than Oculus or some other potential competitor. In the long term that could give OSVR a leg up, assuming the hardware is good enough.