Virtual reality is cool, no wait, it’s really, really cool! And if you didn’t know, it isn’t exactly the latest thing, but it is just starting to enter the mainstream with a broader availability of products.

This is due to a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s being developed by companies like Facebook, Steam, and Microsoft. Despite all of this new attention though, I wouldn’t call VR affordable just yet. Most systems still cost over $500. In the past few months I’ve gotten to demo a number of products from the major players in the VR market. Don’t be fooled, it isn’t just for gaming, we may very well be seeing the future of home video entertainment here. I’ll share with you the highlights of what I’ve learned so far, and hopefully give you a better understanding of what VR is all about.

Virtual Reality Headset

Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft HoloLens

Out now? – Not yet with no projected release date. However, it is available for developers.

Price – No projected consumer pricing yet. Developer units start at around $3,000.

What makes it stand out – Marketed as more of a “holographic computer” than anything else, it takes a different approach and is one of the more amazing units I’ve seen. It allows you to still see the world around you, but it superimposes images on reality in ways you never thought possible to provide a one-of-kind experience.

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What’s it useful for? – Marketed toward commercial and industrial applications with some gaming in the future. Has lots of potential!

Samsung VR

Samsung VR

Out now? – Yes!

Price – $99.99 (plus a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, so around $700 total)

What makes it stand out – The most multipurpose VR solution I’ve seen so far, I’ve actually watched content in full VR, being able to look anywhere I wished. 360° video is an incredible experience, with more content on the way. It’s also fully portable, making it useful for things like being able to tour a for-sale home remotely with a realtor. Plus, it offers a bit of gaming content.

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What’s it useful for? – Business for starters, and it’s the most affordable and easy to get into a VR system right now. However, being smartphone-based, it’s somewhat limited. But it provides some insight into what VR is capable of for things like TV-viewing on the go. If any of the VR systems break into the home entertainment market, I expect Samsung will be the first.

HTC Vive and Oculus Rift

HTC Vive

Out now? – Yes!

Price – $799.99

What makes it stand out – Primarily focused on gaming, the HTC Vive has the most features right out of the box. It includes everything you need to get started and playing some games.

What’s it useful for? – Little outside of gaming. However, you can watch movies and TV with the Vive, which sounds like a neat concept, but I don’t think it will rival a $50,000 home theater setup any time soon.

Oculus Rift

Out now? – Yes!

Price – $600

What makes it stand out – Very similar in some ways to the HTC Vive, it is also primarily focused on gaming. Unlike the Vive, it requires additional parts to function, like controllers for example.

What’s it useful for? – Mostly gaming, however you can watch movies and TV with it, just like the Vive. One plus is that it requires less support hardware to run than the Vive, which might lower the cost of admission but also reduce image quality.

So what we have here is a good start for VR, but home theater buffs can relax; these products are far from reproducing a true cinematic experience. But they’re on the right track in that they add a more immersive and fresh experience to the movies and TV shows we’re already familiar with. Gaming enthusiasts will definitely want to pick one of these up, but if you’re looking for an excellent movie or TV-viewing experience, you might want to hold onto your money and wait for round two. New and improved VR headsets are coming later this year, if not sometime in 2018. Keep an eye on CES next January for what’s likely to be a big round of new product introductions!

The Future of VR