A new app called VRidge promises to close the gap between high-end virtual reality headsets and Google’s cheap Cardboard viewer: VRidge lets consumers install Oculus Rift-compatible games and experiences on their PCs, and then streams them as a video feed to a mobile phone inserted into a cardboard viewer.
VRidge is being developed by Poland-based VR startup Riftcat, which has also released a platform for VR games and content. The app is currently in beta, and still requires users to have a relatively powerful Windows PC equipped with a compatible graphics card.
However, first user reviews are encouraging, and the concept behind it is definitely fascinating: VRidge outsources the heavy computational lifting to the PC, and simply sends a pre-rendered video stream to the phone. The app then uses the phone’s built-in sensors for head-tracking, meaning that the video stream — and the environment someone gets to see within a game or experience — changes when the user moves his or her head.
Of course, there are limitations to this model: Phone sensors can’t yet replace positional tracking as it is being offered by the Oculus Rift.
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Still, the approach is definitely interesting, and it shows how companies like Google could use cheap VR viewers to compete with higher-end hardware. One could for example envision a future in which Google renders VR experiences in the cloud, and streams them directly to mobile phones and inexpensive Cardboard-like headsets.
That approach is actually very similar to where the video game industry has been going over the past couple of years. Sony has been offering cloud-based gaming with its PlayStation Now service for some time, rendering video games in the cloud and then streaming them to smart TVs and other less powerful clients.
Nvidia has been offering a similar services dubbed Geforce Now, offering users a subscription to games that are then streamed directly from the cloud. It seems only a question of time before a similar service for VR games and experiences emerges.