When you think virtual reality headset these days, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Oculus Rift. It’s quite natural; after all the Rift has got some high-profile backers and its first dev kit made a real splash in the gaming industry. But Oculus VR is not the only company working on the technology. Sony has already announced its plans to enter the arena with Morpheus, and now a Beijing-based startup, ANTVR, has launched a Kickstarter for its own virtual reality device.
And here’s the kicker: it might be better than both the Oculus Rift and Morpheus. And it’s coming soon.
I got a chance to interview Qin Zheng, the man behind ANTVR (pictured), shortly before their Kickstarter launched. The first question on my mind, of course, was how the device stacks up against competition like the Oculus Rift. His answer? “The optics and the control system.”
Specifically, on the optics front, ANTVR uses an aspherical lens, which produces a true 4:3 display without the edge distortion produced by spherical lenses like those in the Oculus Rift. But where the device really shines is in its control system. In addition to coming with the adaptable controller you can see in the video below, ANTVR includes built-in position tracking, two 9-axis IMU sensors (the Rift and Morpheus only have one).
The system is also compatible with anything: “Anything that can put out an HDMI signal can be picked up by the headset,” Qin told me. They’ve already tested it with all the major platforms (PC, Playstation, Xbox, and even Android) and have played a variety of popular games on it, including the most recent Call of Duty, Need for Speed, and Resident Evil games.
Qin says he came to VR by way of science fiction; specifically Star Trek. “During college, I wrote several sci-fi stories (several of which were published in a major Chinese magazine) and even produced a few short movies,” he told me. But eventually his interest turned from writing about amazing technology to actually building it:
I built several swimming robots, developed some satellite software, and a made a device that can identify people in virtual reality worlds. But, being a big sci-fi fan, my biggest dream was to make a real-life Holodeck [like the one from Star Trek]. To this end, I invented a lot of VR devices like holographic glasses and VR headsets. Then I created the first ANTVR KIT prototype all by myself last year.
It’s a testament to the project’s momentum that Qin has been able to take it so quickly from a personal project to a viable startup company that plans to ship the beta kit to backers in September and, Qin says, launch the first consumer version of the device a few months after that.
I haven’t yet had a chance to test the ANTVR kit myself, but it’s clear that Qin and his team have created something interesting. Just one day into the Kickstarter, the project has already raised $50,000 (by the time you’re reading this, it may well have broken that mark) and seems well on its way to exceeding the $200,000 goal ANTVR has set.
If you’d like to back the Kickstarter yourself, you can do so here. You’ll need to kick in at least $270 to actually get a beta version of the headset and controller, though.