Guide to Virtual Reality Gifts

Virtual reality (VR) is shaping up to be one of the most popular gifts for Christmas 2016.  VR is new medium that offers a wide range of immersive experiences unlike anything else.

It’s one of those experiences you really have to try to believe.  It’s fun to share with the whole family and can be enjoyed by everyone!

About this VR Guide

This guide is to help people unfamiliar with VR, whether they’re parents or just someone who’s curious.  The goal is to provide a well rounded explanation of VR systems available and not to get bogged down in technical specs.

The guide covers the VR systems available, has advice on what VR to buy, and has recommendations for the VR system that will be the best fit.

Is VR Safe?

VR Safety

VR is a relatively safe experience. The number one complaint is motion sickness or nausea with some experiences.  Sometimes moving images in the headset can cause a feeling of disorientation or a loss of balance.

Wearing a headset also prevents users from seeing obstacles in the room.  Bumps and collisions into furniture, walls, or TVs can happen so it’s important to clear your VR space of any clutter before you start.

Most headsets also have an age limit to protect young eyes.  Oculus recommends users be 13 or older, PlayStation VR has a recommendation of 12.  Younger users may experience eye strain when focusing on a small screen that’s close to their face.  Short breaks are recommended for everyone to reduce eye strain.

Will VR Give me a Workout?

VR Workout

Surprisingly yes!  The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift will have you on your feet dancing around and dodging enemies.  You’d be surprised at how much work it is!  It’s easy to get your heart rate elevated while moving your feet and waving controllers around.  The headset is still tethered to a PC so you won’t quite be running circles around the room but some experiences will still be very active.

The Gear VR is best enjoyed when seated and promotes less movement.  The PS VR will have you on your feet but won’t let you move too much or stray too far from your TV.




What is GearVR?

GearVR is a VR system that uses a Samsung cell phone with a headset to create a VR experience.  The cell phone mounts in a headset to act as the screen and the phone software takes over to create the VR experience.

Oculus partnered with Samsung to create the system so you have a combination of great hardware, great software, and excellent content.  If you’ve ever tried Google Cardboard this is easily 10 times better.

The best thing about the GearVR is that it’s 100% mobile.  You’re not tied to a computer so you can use it anywhere – on a plane, on vacation, or on your couch.

The downside is that any phone is slow when compared to a computer so VR experiences are good but won’t match higher end systems such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

Who is GearVR for?

Anyone who wants a VR experience they take anywhere  or anyone who already has a Samsung Galaxy phone. It’s great for frequent fliers who want to enjoy movies on planes.

The GearVR has a broad appeal because it allows anyone with a Samsung phone to easily try VR if they’re curious.

GearVR is compatible with the following Samsung Galaxy phones:

Content Available on the GearVR

Gear VR has an excellent library of games and apps!  It’s amazing how well games run on the GearVR, you’ll be surprised!

  • Netflix
  • Minecraft
  • Oculus Arcade
  • And much more!

What to Buy for the GearVR

PlayStation VR


 What is PlayStation VR?

PlayStation VR is a VR headset that works with the PlayStation 4.  It has great games, great visuals, and almost all of the features as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.  A camera is used to track the illuminated headset and controllers to allow for a wide range of motion.

The PlayStaion VR has great support by Sony and many game developers.  It has some of the best content available and is a great fit for any home or family.

Who is PlayStation VR for?

PlayStation VR is prefect for anyone who already has a PlayStation 4.  The VR headset builds on the PlayStation 4 by adding touch controllers, a camera, and a VR processing unit.

It’s easy to setup and great for families to share.  This is your best VR option for anyone who wants to try VR.  It’s easily approachable, provides an amazing VR experience, and is inexpensive when compared to the top of the line VR systems.

Content Available on the PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR has some of the best games and experiences available.  An amazing demo disc is included with the system to give you a taste of what’s possible.

What to Buy for the PlayStation VR

Oculus Rift

Rift with Camera

What is Oculus Rift?

The Oculus Rift the “original” VR headset that has jump started the recent VR craze and attracted competitors.  It is a high-end VR headset that requires a powerful computer for it to work.  It is arguably the best designed headset available with the best visuals and headphones that are built in.

The Oculus Rift originally launched with a hand held controller for playing games which was a bit limiting for VR.  They are working on hand held motion controllers that will be launched soon.  The system uses a camera to track the headset and will require additional cameras to track the controllers.

Oculus has partnered with many software developers to create a great library of content and games.  Some of the best VR experiences are only available on the Rift.

Who is  Oculus Rift for?

Oculus Rift is for PC gamers or anyone who wants the best-looking VR experience. The Oculus Rift has to be tied to a computer so  it may be difficult to share with the family like the PS VR.

The Oculus Rift is a little technical to setup but users are guided through the experience by the software.  The headset requires a powerful computer so double check your PC before you buy or plan on buying a new PC.  Oculus makes it easy to check your PC with a compatibility tool.

Motion tracked controllers aren’t immediately available for the Rift but they are launching soon.  If you want a more complete and immersive VR experience immediately then you may want to consider the HTC Vive.

Content Available on the Oculus Rift

  • Minecraft
  • EVE: Valkyrie
  • Elite Dangerous
  • Project Cars
  • Dirt Rally

What to buy for the Oculus Rift

HTC Vive

HTC Vive

What is HTC Vive?

The HTC Vive is a powerful VR headset that is a competitor to the Oculus Rift.  It requires a powerful computer to work but has the most immersive VR experience available today.

The HTC Vive includes motion tracked controllers and allows users to have a “room-scale” experience where they can walk around and experience VR in 360°.   A laser-tracking system called Lighthouse tracks the headset and controllers.

The HTC Vive has a huge advantage over the Oculus Rift because the Rift doesn’t allow users to walk around in VR like the Vive.  Oculus is offering this option as an upgrade in the future.

The Vive works with Steam software and has many great games and experiences available. Many of the games available for the Oculus Rift are also available on the HTC Vive.

Who is  HTC Vive for?

HTC Vive is for PC gamers or anyone who wants the best and most immersive VR experience available. Motion tracked controllers and room scale experiences are available right out of the box. The HTC Vive has to be tied to a computer so  it may be difficult to share with the family like the PS VR.

The HTC Vive is the most technical system to setup with many parts included. The headset requires a powerful computer so double check your PC before you buy or plan on buying a new PC.

Content Available on the HTC Vive

  • Minecraft
  • The Lab
  • Elite Dangerous
  • Space Pirate Trainer

What to buy for the HTC Vive

VR Recommendations

What’s the best VR system for someone who’s curious about VR?

Consider trying Google Carboard which will use a standard smartphone.  A better experience would be the GearVR although it may be pricey unless you have the correct Galaxy phone.

If you already have a PlayStation 4 you may want to consider PlayStation VR.

What’s the best VR system for families?

The PlayStation VR is probably the best fit for a family because it’s easy to use, easily shared, and works off of a PlayStation 4.

What’s the best VR system for gamers?

Serious gamers are going to be the most interested in the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive because of the performance available from either of these systems.  HTC Vive may have better game support since it is well integrated with the Steam library.

What’s the best VR system for kids?

There are concerns about young children using VR but the PlayStation VR is probably the best bet for older kids.

What’s the best VR system for adults?

The HTC Vive or Oculus Rift will offer the best VR experiences out there although each system will be somewhat complex to setup and use.

What’s the best VR system available?

The HTC Vive currently offers the most immersive and enjoyable VR experience with its room-scale 360° tracking of the headset and controllers.  Oculus is working to match the Vive’s capabilities but isn’t quite there yet.

What’s the most immersive VR system available?

The HTC Vive is the only system to currently offer room-scale 360° tracking of the headset and controllers.

What VR system has the best graphics?

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both offer excellent graphics through the use of a powerful gaming PC but the Oculus Rift has a slight edge in screen and optics.

What’s the most expensive VR system?

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are both pricey options considering you need a powerful computer to go along with each system.  The HTC Vive is the most expensive as a single product but the Oculus Rift will be more expensive if you factor in the cost of the headset plus the additional touch controllers.