Zeiss VR ONE Plus hands-on: a look into the future of passive VR

At E3 this year, we were able to get a hands on demo of the new Zeiss VR ONE Plus headset. The VR ONE Plus is a passive headset that is compatible with a variety of phones from a 4.7″ screen to a 5.5″ screen like the iPhone 6S+. It’s a “passive headset” meaning that the headset takes images from the phone and displays them directly to the consumer, there is no physical interactivity with the program. This is the most basic way to say that the headset is “plug and play,” and that’s a good thing.

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The most interesting thing about the Zeiss VR ONE Plus is that the view-box is almost universal. When a person puts the headset on the view is crisp and clear. There’s no fiddling or adjusting the viewing area, it just works. A lot of times when putting on a new mobile headset the consumer has to adjust the distance between the lenses to line up over their eyes, but with the VR ONE Plus, because of what the manufacturer calls the “eye-box,” there’s no adjustment necessary. Even while wearing glasses in the headset the fit was comfortable and clear.

Another feature that Zeiss added with this latest iteration of the headset is a universal tray which means that consumers don’t have to order a specific tray for the Samsung Galaxy S7 or the iPhone 6s. All phones between 4.7″ and 5.5″ will work. This makes sharing the VR experience with a friend even easier as they can open the tray, pop out the phone, and put in another phone. If the foam inserts around the headset get a little grimy, consumers can easily swap in a new foam insert since it uses Velcro to attach to the headset.

Since the VR ONE Plus has a clear front plate, app developers can make use of the smartphone’s camera and create apps for AR or Augmented Reality. One of the more interesting demos of this feature on the show floor was the ability to check out a small cube that had different avatars appear when looking at the different sides of the cube. Those programming codes could be inserted onto anything and might even pop up on business cards one day.

The final thing I was able to test out was something that’s still in it’s infancy with Zeiss, room scale VR. Zeiss partnered with Dacuda to be able to use the Zeiss headset with Steam PC gaming rigs. Gamers would plug their phone directly into their PC and use the Zeiss VR headset as a VR screen. The PC would take the gyroscopic readings and the pictures from the phone and use that to calculate movement in the VR space. This could be a very cheap and simple way to get the VR experience on PCs without the need of a full HTC Vive or Oculus Rift setup.

The only concern with the new Zeiss headset comes from the phones themselves. By splitting the viewable area in half and zooming in so closely on the screen with certain apps there was a moderately high pixelated view in front of me. That’s less of a concern with the VR ONE Plus headset than mobile VR headsets in general, but that’s the reality of mobile VR right now until phone manufacturers can make screens that have even denser pixels.

Overall, the Zeiss VR ONE Plus headset looks to be a solid choice for consumers who want to experience VR without spending a lot of money. The best thing about the VR ONE Plus is the fact that most people can just put it on and use it. Lastly, with Zeiss and Dacuda’s VR partnership, there is a very compelling home VR option on the horizon.

The Zeiss VR ONE Plus headset is set to launch in August with a retail price of $129.

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