BARCELONA — Alongside the LG G5 and Rolling Bot, LG also announced the 360 VR, a virtual reality headset that is one-third lighter than other VR headsets and has a 20% sharper display, at Mobile World Congress.
The unit my colleague Stan Schroeder tried on didn’t work, but I had a chance to go eyes-on with a functional unit after LG’s press conference on Sunday.
Unlike VR headsets like the Samsung Gear VR or Google Cardboard, you don’t need to slot a smartphone into it. Instead, the 360 VR connects to the LG G5 via a USB-C cable. While it’s one way to cut down on the weight of the VR headset, having the G5 dangling off to the side is unsightly.
This solution does, however, mean the headset could potentially mean other smartphones will work with the 360 VR. One disadvantage to the Gear VR is that it only works with a handful of smartphones; it’s entirely dependent on a phone’s size and shape.
The headset itself is remarkably light, but as Stan said, it felt extremely flimsy. The cover around the screen is made of a soft fabric-like material and though there wasn’t any serious light peaking in, I did notice some.
That’s not to say it’s not comfortable — it’s very comfy. The ears are flexible and fit better than the tight straps usually found on VR headsets. The nose pieces came off while I was trying them out and I couldn’t get them back on for some reason.
The headset has a 1.88-inch IPS display with 960 x 720 resolution and 649 pixels per inch. It’s a sharp screen, better than the experience you get from a lot of Google Cardboard and smartphone VR combos, but It’s not better than the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. I could still see the pixels and the “screen door effect,” the grid of pixels is very distracting.
LG only had a few pre-installed 360-degree videos to check out. They weren’t full-blown VR experiences, more like a video reel, but there is a little bit of depth to the videos when you turn your head around. It’s too bad there wasn’t any better content to really get a sense of the visual fidelity of the headset.
LG’s also banking on user-generated 360-degree and VR videos to provide the content backbone for the headset. The company announced the 360 Cam, a Ricoh Theta-like camera with two lenses. 360-degree videos captured with the 360 Cam can be viewed in VR mode on the 360 VR.
(Image: Wil Sands/Mashable)
Controlling the 360 VR is pretty easy, too. There’s no direction pad like there is on the Gear VR — just an OK button on the top and a back button next to it. You basically turn your head and control a little dot-like cursor inside of the screen and then press the OK button to select items on a menu screen. That screen, by the way, looks awfully similar to the Gear VR’s UI.
(Image: Wil Sands/Mashable)
Obviously, I didn’t have enough time to try out the 360 VR and the content that’s pre-loaded on it didn’t blow me away, but I could get behind lighter headsets like this. That cable is annoying and I can only wish for full wireless streaming from the phone. But that would also require a more powerful processor.
One thing LG didn’t announce was how much the 360 VR will cost and when it’ll be released. Hopefully, it’ll be competitive to the $99 Gear VR.