Riem 3 Mobile VR Headset good option for basic VR exploration.
The tech behind the trick may have lost some of the original charm, but this headset still allows a good look at the basic results of virtual reality applications
It is important to know that a headset of this type primarily owes its existence to Google Cardboard. The tech giant rolled out this application standard alongside their own headset: the eponymous Cardboard, a literal cardboard box template that, when assembled, serves as a poor man’s virtual reality headset. Right from the outset, users of the default Cardboard template found an odd quirk with their new 3D perspective: the cardboard requires a person to hold the assembly up against their face, much like a pair of binoculars. This setup did not lend itself to immersion for every type of first person view. App developers that wanted to offer an even more immersive experience would need to find a way to view the display hands-free without requiring a humorous workaround. (Although newer Google Cardboard designs use straps, buckles, and headbands, a quick web search can reveal several early comical uses of strips of duct tape and even a cargo belt to secure the Cardboard to the face of a user.)
Accessory manufacturers like Riem have taken opportunity to provide a shell for the user’s mobile device. Simply slide your device into the headset assembly and viola: Instant Google Cardboard-compatible display and a hands-free VR headset in one. When reaching for this goal, the Riem 3 Mobile VR Headset is a near perfect attempt for the price.
The first thing a user will notice is that the headset is very light to the point of feeling a little flimsy. This may seem like a negative but a single session with any VR headset will hammer home the following:
Important VR Factoid #1: The weight of a VR peripheral is one of the most important design aspects that a manufacturer can address. Even a few extra pounds will begin to strain the neck of an unaccustomed user.
The headset has a pair of straps that are easy to thread and secure to the main body of the headset. The provided pads and adhesive patches provide further comfort and cut down on the amount of light that enters the primary viewing area.
This viewing area itself smartly designed. It is easy to install and remove almost any type of mobile phone, although larger screens will obviously improve the effect. The forward portion of this headset is basically a giant lid that once opened allows a mobile device of up to 6” in size to be mounted to a grid of tiny suction cups. The amount of grip will greatly vary on the shape and material of the mobile device back panel, but most metal and plastic backings should do just fine. The lid also has a removable section so a mobile phone’s camera can be used with an augmented reality application, if so desired.
After making sure the phone is securely attached to the mounting area and snapping the lid closed, users will be able to adjust the inter-pupillary distance using a pair of small sliders installed over either of the lenses. Improper adjustment can greatly diminish the illusion of depth, so multiple tweaks may be needed before a particular VR application feels right.
Once the headset was assembled, my phone was mounted and centered on the lenses. I was able to easily wear the headset without worrying about it falling or slipping off, even during some of the quicker turns and jumps in some of the VR applications I used.
About those VR applications…
Credit where it is due, Google Cardboard is a great way for developers to start from a standardized set of controls, but the final result is still very, very much dependent on the amount of skill and effort spent. Applications such as the virtual roller coaster Cedar Point VR and the latest demo for space adventure Vanguard V allow great freedom of view and decent graphical performance. Other notable “wow” moments can be found with the use of Google’s own Cardboard or Streetview apps and quite a few Youtube 360-degree videos. With a good pair of headphones and good head tracking, some of these applications can feel pretty convincing at times. That reminds me:
Important VR factoid #2: everything displayed in a VR app is likely a duplicated scene, which means the mobile device is rendering TWO 3D environments instead of one. Don’t expect the sharpest graphics or the smoothest performance on even the most powerful mobile devices.
Once the initial thrill wears off, a user will be able to find more gaps in the curtain and the illusion of VR might be all but removed. Most applications use VR as a moveable camera and nothing else, which can limit interactivity. Some of the worst VR applications have the user pointing a floating cursor on various menu items and clicking the action button (an awkward plastic button positioned directly in front of the user’s nose) to activate them, essentially turning the head of the user into a fancy mouse or trackball. Finally, upcoming VR setups such as Valve and HTC’s Vive or Facebook’s Oculus Rift are much more sophisticated pieces of hardware. Their imminent presence on the market makes each Google Cardboard demo feel a little less special, though the price difference between these offerings is a considerable one.
In conclusion, for every pro and con that Google Cardboard and other VR experiences have, the end result is that most of these comments and complaints are really about the state of mobile VR software, in general. When regarding only the construction and functionality of the physical headset, Riem has done a great job taking a frugal and effective design and making it very easy to use.
This headset enables basic exploration into virtual reality with a very low cost of entry, and I would recommend a purchase to anyone looking for a new way to play with their existing mobile device.
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