While concepts and prototypes abound, there are only a rare few virtual reality headsets currently available for purchase. But 2015 could be the year the technology finally goes mainstream, starting with the launch of the highly anticipated Oculus Rift or a model derived from it.
The idea behind these devices is that users can fully immerse themselves in a 360° virtual world, whether to escape into the fantasy setting of a video game or to experience a new perspective on a documentary film, for example.
Currently, the company most aggressively pursuing the technology is Oculus VR, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014. Since 2012, Oculus VR has developed several prototypes, including the latest and most advanced model, the Crescent Bay, unveiled in September. Now, ahead of the release of the company's first production model in 2015, there is even talk of launching a dedicated apps platform.
The Oculus Crescent Bay, which is described as a more advanced version of the earlier Rift and Crystal Cove prototypes, features an improved design and -- for the first time -- built-in audio headphones. The manufacturer has also mentioned higher screen resolution and a faster refresh rate, although no exact figures were announced.
While Oculus VR has not yet released a headset under its own name, the company lent some of its expertise to Samsung during the development of the Gear VR, which was presented at IFA 2014. On sale for $199.99 (so far only in the US), the headset is only compatible with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for the time being.
Other manufacturers are making similar forays into the VR headset market. The French brand Archos, for example, markets its VR Glasses, which are compatible with any Android, iOS or Windows Phone smartphone of up to six inches and cost just $29.99.
It's safe to say there will be at least a few VR headsets announced at the coming edition of CES, which takes place in Las Vegas from January 6 to 9. Sony and Microsoft, for example, might enter the emerging market as early as 2015 by introducing VR headsets for their respective games consoles.