Let’s face it: it’s going to be a while before most of us get headsets that can virtually transport us to new realities, mix digital images with the world around us, or both.
That said, virtual reality and augmented reality advanced a lot in 2017, and there’s much more to come this year, including smartphone apps that bring beloved Harry Potter characters to life, wireless VR headsets, and virtual vacations.
This is a list of the headsets, apps, and other cool AR and VR goodies that we are most looking forward to checking out in 2018.
Standalone VR headsets
Because of the computing and battery power required to make virtual reality work well, the first consumer VR headsets come in two flavors: expensive, high-end ones that need to be plugged in to a pricey computer, like Oculus’s Rift and HTC’s Vive, and cheaper ones that depend on a smartphone for brains and juice, like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View.
This will start to change in 2018, however. Oculus plans to release two self-contained headsets during the year: a fancier developer model known as Santa Cruz that has built-in positional tracking (it hasn’t publicly been given a price or approximate release date yet), as well as a lower-end consumer headset called Oculus Go, with less fancy tracking capabilities, that will cost $199 and is slated to come out early in the year.
HTC is also planning to ship an all-in-one headset called the Vive Focus in January (it began preorders online in late 2017), which costs about $600 or $650, depending on whether you want it in white or blue. You may not see it in the U.S., though; HTC has only announced plans to sell it in China thus far.
Magic Leap One
Secretive, massively funded (nearly $2 billion) Florida-based startup Magic Leap unveiled its first AR headset, Magic Leap One, at the end of 2017, saying it will ship in 2018. Styled like a sort of modern pair of steampunk goggles, the black headset is meant for developers, and the company says it will produce images that look great while being comfortable to wear—two goals that have eluded many AR headset makers thus far.
Magic Leap has been working toward this release since 2011. There are still a lot of details to be revealed, though, including a price and release date, so we’ll believe it when we see it. But we hope to be impressed.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Released in the summer of 2016, Pokémon Go, was so captivating that millions of users still spend plenty of time wandering around outside with their smartphones held aloft, searching for charmanders, bulbasaurs, and other magical Pokémon creatures that can only be spotted through the handset’s display.
Buoyed by the massive success of that augmented-reality app, the company behind it, Niantic, is working with Warner Brothers Games to release a game in 2018 that may appeal to an even broader audience: Harry Potter fans.
Called Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, it will use augmented reality to let users wander the real world while finding artifacts, casting spells, and seeing characters from the much-beloved books. Niantic hasn’t said much yet about when exactly the game is coming out or what it will be like—nobody has slipped the company any veritaserum, it seems—so further details remain a mystery for now.
Owlchemy Labs Vacation Simulator
Owlchemy Labs was one of the first companies to build some really smart, silly VR games, such as Job Simulator, which made the player perform different jobs in a future where robots have taken over all work.
This year, the company (which was bought by Google last May) is rolling out a new game that lets users take a break. Vacation Simulatorlooks similar in concept (and a trailer seems to indicate that robots will still be in charge and making fun of players) and has the same kind of blocky animation as Job Simulator. But you can hang out on the beach, eat hot dogs, and explore the make-believe Vacation Island in VR (it might not be that relaxing, though).
The game will be available for the HTC Vive, Oculus, and PlayStation VR headsets.
Ready Player One
Originally a best-selling sci-fi novel by Ernest Cline about a 1980s-obsessed teenager’s treasure hunt through a virtual-reality world called Oasis, Ready Player One features rich imagery that makes the story a natural fit for the big screen.
A film version directed by Steven Spielberg is set to be released on March 30, and if the trailer is any indication, it will be an action-filled, visually stunning movie that takes viewers into a bizarre virtual paradise without the need for a VR headset.
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