Carl Zeiss VR One takes on the Samsung Gear VR and co

The VR wars step up a notch as German lens specialist gets involved
Carl Zeiss VR One unveiled

The VR battle is really shaping up with German optic specialist Carl Zeiss the latest entrant to the evolving market with its Zeiss VR One headset.

The Zeiss VR One will ship in December, with pre-orders for $99 or €99 now open.

Wareable verdict: Samsung Gear VR review

The big news here is, like the Samsung Gear VR, the hardware power comes courtesy of your smartphone. Unlike Sammy’s IFA-announced effort, however, you’re not tied to just one mobile with the Zeiss VR One; it will play ball with any iOS or Android handset between 4.7 and 5.2 inches.

Like the Gear VR, the smartphone slots into a front panel. With the German contender, it is held in by a device-specific tray; the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 6 will be supported at launch with more to come.

Carl Zeiss is putting its faith in the developer community to build that apps and experiences that it hopes will excite and delight VR One wearers. It’s calling on “designers, engineers, artists, developers, scientists, architects, visionaries, experts and you” to make the hardware come alive.

Think of that hardware as Google Cardboard but with durable polycarbonate instead of cardboard, and a whopping 100 degree field of view.

“Virtual reality has no limits,” reads a Carl Zeiss post on a new Tumblr set up for the platform. “And we all have the unique opportunity to participate in shaping this new world.”

That shaping will kick off with two basic apps; one a media player for the likes of pictures and YouTube videos, and the second an AR app for augmented experiences.

Essential reading: Xbox One VR news and rumours

Its makers will be hoping that its open source Unity3D SDK will provide the rest. It’s available for both iOS and Android.

It’s perhaps not all that surprising that a company that specialises in lenses has jumped aboard the VR bandwagon. Google proved with Cardboard that smartphones have the power to provide the VR experiences and Samsung obviously took that a step further by unleashing the Gear VR last month.

But with reports suggesting that the Korean headset may cost closer to $200 by the time it hits the shops later this year, and that’s after the $500ish outlay for a Galaxy Note 4, an unlikely source may have just provided the ‘casual’ VR headset the world was crying out for.

For while the Carl Zeiss VR One hasn’t got the horsepower to take on the likes of the Oculus Rift or Sony’s Project Morpheus – it does genuinely have a chance at capturing the imagination of a public with serious VR stirrings.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on this one. In the meantime, check out our guide to the best AR and VR headsets.

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