Over the next two months, two major virtual reality headsets will be released: the Oculus Quest on May 21st and the Valve Index in June. They’ll be joining a market that’s relatively young but fairly crowded. Some half-dozen big companies have made major plays for VR, and countless smaller ones have also launched or announced headsets. But these products cater to vastly different audiences, and sorting through them can be confusing — especially because VR headsets are sometimes announced very early, then delayed or outright canceled.

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It would be almost impossible to catalog every virtual reality Kickstarter project or specialized professional device. But it’s easier to lay out the biggest names in VR, what they’re selling, who they’re selling to, and why you should actually care.

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Why should you care about the company?

Oculus helped create the current VR wave by raising millions of dollars for its debut Oculus Rift headset on Kickstarter, and it’s helped fund production of many well-known VR games and films. Also, it’s owned by Facebook, so any kind of large-scale social VR push will probably start there.

What’s it making?

Primarily, three Oculus-branded headsets: the Oculus Go, the Quest, and the Rift S. The Oculus Go is a self-contained lower-end headset that supports simple interactions. The Quest is also self-contained, but it features full motion tracking and sophisticated hand controllers. The PC-powered Rift S is an upgraded version of the original Rift. Oculus also co-created the Samsung Gear VR headset, which is powered by Samsung phones.

Who’s the ideal customer?

Mostly consumers, although some companies do use them for professional VR. The Oculus Go is pitched as a VR video player, the Quest as a mass-market gaming console, and the Rift as a “gold standard” for VR gaming. The Quest, in particular, is built for user-friendliness and convenience, while forgoing cutting-edge experimental features and offering limited computing power.

What’s the price range?

$129 plus the cost of a phone for the Gear VR, $199 for the Oculus Go, and $399 each for the Quest and Rift S. (You’ll also need a PC for the Rift S.) You might find the Gear VR bundled for free with a Samsung phone, though.

What can you actually buy?

The original Oculus Rift has been retired, but the Oculus Go and Gear VR are both available right now. You can preorder the Quest and Rift S; they’ll start shipping on May 21st.


Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

Why should you care about the company?

HTC co-created the Vive, the first major headset with a wide range of motion and full virtual hands. The Vive is one of the most appealing headsets for high-end VR gaming, and HTC has made a huge push into industrial VR as well.

What’s it making?

The increasingly expansive HTC Vive line of headsets. There’s the core HTC Vive, a PC-powered high-end headset, and the Vive Pro, a high-resolution variant. The Vive Focus Plus is a standalone headset with inside-out motion tracking, similar to the Quest. And the enigmatic Vive Cosmos is supposed to be a PC-tethered device that could one day be powered by a phone. HTC has also supplemented these headsets with a tracking accessory that can be used in custom controllers.

Who’s the ideal customer?

Primarily businesses for training and simulations, product testing, computer design visualizations, and a variety of other purposes. The Vive is also popular with VR arcades, and HTC actually operates its own VR “experiential center” known as Viveland. The upcoming Vive Cosmos, however, seems aimed more directly at home gaming fans.

What’s the price range?

$499 for the Vive, $599 for the Vive Focus Plus, and $799 for the Vive Pro headset (plus the cost of tracking stations and controllers). HTC hasn’t revealed a price for the Cosmos yet. The Vive, the Vive Pro, and the Cosmos all require a gaming PC as well.

What can you actually buy?

The Vive and Vive Pro are both widely available. The Vive Focus Plus was released on April 15th in some markets, but it was delayed until later this month in others. And the Vive Cosmos release date is anybody’s guess.


Why should you care about the company?

Valve was the Vive’s other co-creator, responsible for the headset’s innovative tracking system and the SteamVR software platform. Valve envisioned SteamVR as a whole ecosystem of headsets, and it’s just announced a high-end SteamVR product called the Index. Also, Valve’s Steam storefront has a near-monopoly on PC gaming, so it’s fairly important outside of VR as well.

What’s it making?

Technically, the Vive, but that seems like HTC’s territory now. Valve seems more focused on the upcoming Index, another PC-powered, high-end device. While the Index uses the Vive’s tracking system, it features some screen improvements and a set of new, fascinatingly weird-looking “Knuckles” controllers.

Who’s the ideal customer?

As Polygon puts it, Valve is targeting “a virtual reality enthusiast who (a) must have the latest thing and (b) enjoys sufficient disposable income to satisfy that desire.” Valve is also touting a big “flagship” VR game this year. So we might safely assume it wants gaming fans — specifically, fans of its Half-Life and Portal series, according to some rumors — on board.

What’s the price range?

The full system is $999 plus the cost of a PC, which puts it way at the high end of consumer VR. On the bright side, Valve is selling the Index piecemeal, so Vive owners could reuse their old tracking systems or even just buy some new controllers.

What can you actually buy?

Valve opened preorders for the Index on May 1st, and the first units are supposed to ship in June — although, as of right now, it’s heavily backordered.


PSVR Quarter profile

Why should you care about the company?

Beyond being one of the world’s biggest electronics and media companies, Sony’s PlayStation VR has sold more than any other tethered headset — around 4.2 million units. It’s also got connections with popular non-VR game studios that can bring exclusive games to its platform.

What’s it making?

The PlayStation VR, a wired headset that’s powered by a PlayStation 4, bundled with a PlayStation Camera for tracking, and controlled by either the standard DualShock gamepad or the PlayStation Move motion controllers.

Who’s the ideal customer?

PlayStation owners, naturally. Sony launched its headset for the PlayStation 4, but it’s committed to supporting the device on an as-yet-unannounced fifth-generation console, so it seems to consider PSVR a long-term project.

What’s the price range?

Not including the cost of a PlayStation 4 console, it’s $249 or $299, depending on whether you want to add motion controllers. The headset usually comes bundled with a couple of games.

What can you actually buy?

The PSVR has been on sale since November 2016. Sony is rumored to be working on a wireless second-generation headset, but if that’s happening, we don’t know when the device might be announced or released.


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Why should you care about the company?

Google introduced millions of people to VR with Cardboard, a cheap cardboard shell that turned almost any smartphone into a simple headset. It built on that success with the Android Daydream VR platform, and it’s helped design 360-degree cameras to capture VR video. For now, it’s seemingly relegated VR to the back burner, but it hasn’t given up altogether.

What’s it making?

There’s a Google-branded Cardboard headset, and Google advertises many other Cardboard-compatible shells on its site. On the Daydream side, Google offers the phone-powered Daydream View and the standalone Lenovo Mirage Solo, which has similar features to the Oculus Quest. The accompanying Lenovo Mirage Camera can either record 180-degree video or stream it to YouTube.

Who’s the ideal customer?

Anybody who’s lightly VR-curious or likes to watch a lot of immersive video. Google partnered with The New York Times to ship Cardboard viewers and distributed them to classrooms through the Expeditions program. And it spent years iterating on a VR version of YouTube — which isn’t Cardboard- or Daydream-exclusive, but it came to those platforms first.

What’s the price range?

For Cardboard, it’s often free since companies love giving it out as branded swag. (Obviously, you still need a phone to use it.) Otherwise, you can get an official Cardboard headset for $15, a Daydream View for $99, and a Mirage Solo for $399.

What can you actually buy?

Everything above is already on sale. But the Daydream View’s future, at least, seems uncertain.

Daydream never got much traction, and Google is focusing more on augmented reality than virtual reality right now. Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S10 line doesn’t support the headset, and neither does Google’s own Pixel 3A, which was announced last week.


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Why should you care about the company?

Microsoft Windows is the world’s most popular desktop and laptop operating system, and while Microsoft’s Xbox One isn’t the most popular gaming console, it’s still a huge platform. So the company has a real opportunity to promote VR, and it’s shown an interest in doing just that, albeit only on Windows so far.

What’s it making?

Microsoft partners with manufacturers on the “Windows Mixed Reality” line of PC-powered VR headsets, which use the same platform and interface but vary in specs and style. (They’re different from the HoloLens headset because, yes, Microsoft’s naming scheme is deeply confusing.) Microsoft was one of the first companies to push for getting rid of external tracking devices on tethered headsets, although Oculus recently followed suit with the Rift S. Its partners have included Acer, Lenovo, HP, and Samsung.

Who’s the ideal customer?

Businesses that are already using Windows and want relatively cheap virtual reality headsets that don’t require a lot of setup. Windows Mixed Reality headsets can also work with Steam games, so they’re a feasible lower-end alternative to the Rift or Vive.

What’s the price range?

The cheapest headsets cost $299 without motion controllers, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets have generally hovered between $300 and $600 — although not all of these products are still on sale.

What can you actually buy?

Microsoft currently sells the Samsung Odyssey for $350, its successor the Odyssey+ for $499, and a headset from Asus for $399. Acer, Dell, and Lenovo also sell headsets through third-party retailers like Amazon. The HP Reverb was supposed to have launched earlier this month, but that date seems to have slipped.


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Why should you care about the company?

It made many people’s most beloved games and gaming devices, and it currently sells the unique and popular Switch console. Nintendo was also designing VR hardware before some of these other companies even existed… although, admittedly, the results were the awkward Power Glove and the infamous Virtual Boy.

What’s it making?

The Labo VR, a whimsical Google Cardboard-like kit that turns a Switch into a handheld virtual reality headset. You can use the kit to make a variety of accessories: there’s a cardboard blaster gun, a foot pedal, an elephant mask where the trunk is a simple controller, a bird whose “wings” you can flap to fly, and a camera that lets you take pictures of virtual worlds.

Who’s the ideal customer?

Nintendo is targeting a younger audience with the Labo VR’s toy-like design. As with other Labo kits, you’ll spend a lot of time assembling the cardboard accessories. There’s no head strap, so you have to physically hold the goggles up, likely for relatively brief stretches. And there’s an educational component that teaches kids exactly how the different pieces work.

What’s the price range?

You can pay $39 for a starter kit that lets you build the goggles and blaster or get the full array of accessories for $79. (Obviously, you’ll need a Nintendo Switch, too.)

What can you actually buy?

The Labo VR kit launched this spring, and it’s widely available.


Image: Varjo

These big brands aren’t the only companies working in VR. You can find other headsets at retail outlets, on crowdfunding platforms, and in workplaces. Many of these are cheaper mass-market variants of Google Cardboard. Others serve an extremely specific need, like the Varjo VR-1, which caters to business customers who need high resolutions but not a wide field of view. Some countries, particularly China, have a distinct VR ecosystem. Companies like Oculus want to pull the VR market into the mainstream, but it’s still a very weird place.

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