Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Using a Phone as a PC VR Headset

I've been toying with a few different options for using a mobile phone in a VR viewer as a PC HMD (Head Mounted Display.) Essentially this is a cheap way of trying VR on a PC without investing in an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, OSVR HDK, etc. Honestly, the results aren't great so far and nowhere near the level of using one of those dedicated devices. Still, if you want to give it a try, this is what I have found. If you know of others, be sure to let me know via the comments, Twitter, etc.

I was trying this on an older laptop, (i7-3612QM, 16GB RAM, Win 10 64-bit, NVIDIA GT 640M,) using an iPhone 6S in a Google Cardboard based case, ideally using a USB cable but otherwise over a corporate WiFi network since I was trying this at lunch time at work. I'll see if I can get an Android phone to try out some more options and perhaps give it a go from my newer MacBook Pro too, (if I can get a copy of Windows on it since I didn't see any options for OSX users yet,) then update here.

Generally the setup involves running a server application on your PC, running a client application on your phone, adjusting some settings to get the image displaying well and enabling head tracking as mouse input if you want to, then running a game or app in windowed mode. The server app then sends the images to the client app while the client optionally sends back head movements as mouse input back to the PC. You can also enable image duplication, (i.e. left and right eye images,) for apps that don't have native VR support. I was having to do this since my PC, (really the laptop's graphics card,) wasn't powerful enough to run a real VR app to test with, so I was trying GoldenEye: Source and some simple "2D" apps like Notepad. This essentially made it look like a floating TV screen.

Name iOS Android Windows OSX USB WiFi Comments
KinoVR Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Pretty slick, but kept dropping the connection over WiFi. See KinoConsole as an alternative with WinPhone support, although it doesn't have VR support built in.
TrinusVR Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Couldn't get the USB connection working, probably because of Apple restrictions.
Intugame VR Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Also supports GearVR. Couldn't get this to connect over WiFi.
GaGaGu VR Streamer Yes No Yes No No Yes Looks like just a side project. Couldn't get it to connect. Additional setup needed using OpenTracker for head movement.
Riftcat VRidge No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Looks good, but didn't try this yet.
SwatterCo VR Streamer No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Didn't try this yet.