Razer OSVR: Everything you need to know about the virtual reality platform

Open-Source Virtual Reality is here, but what does it mean exactly?
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OSVR might not have the world salivating over virtual reality like HTC and Oculus, but it's still a hugely influential player.

Essential reading: The best VR headsets

The Open Source Virtual Reality platform (OSVR) is an ecosystem of hardware and software that aims to create standards for hardware and gaming.

Here's all you need to know about OSVR…

What is OSVR?


The easiest way to explain OSVR is to compare it to Android. It's an open source platform which aims to inspire developers and big name brands companies to push VR tech forward. Its objective is to be a software framework that sets new standards for virtual reality.

Essential reading: Everything we know about Project Morpheus

Like Android, it's an open licensed ecosystem (in fact, on the same Apache Software License 2.0 as Google's mobile OS) that developers can use to create VR experiences – or more specifically, VR games – across any operating system, including Windows, Android and Linux.

“The point is to make it easier for developers," Luca Di Fiore, director of R&D at Razer – the chief hardware company working with OSVR, told Wareable.

“If I'm a developer who wants to develop VR, I don't want to really consider the shortcomings and distortions of each individual device and have to adjust to that. If you open up the system it prevents that. Gaming should not be a locked system."

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Razer's OSVR isn't a rival to the likes of Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus and Samsung Gear VR. It's designed to make it easier developers to develop for any VR hardware – without technical (software and hardware) limitations getting in their way.

“Oculus say they are open source, but they are not," said Di Fiore. “They have done a fantastic job of getting VR on the front pages and their SDK is open source, but only for things that work on its hardware. On the device side they are locked.

“We don't want to compete with Oculus, we want to support Oculus. If a developer wants to use our platform to support Oculus, he can – already today you can do that."

What about hardware?


The main OSVR headset right now is made by Razer and is a development kit that can be picked up for $299.99. This isn't a fully fledged consumer product but a platform to get game makers developing for the hardware. However, anyone can buy it to try out the device.

We have actually seen a consumer product go live with OSVR standards. The Vuzix iWear 720 is on pre-order currently and will be compatible with OSVR games in the future.

The platform, which aims to provide a standard across VR hardware and software works with PC and Android, which means it caters for both hardcore mainstream games and mobile experiences.

At the moment the OSVR dev kit comes with its own 5.5-inch Full HD OLED display but future versions will have the ability to slot in a smartphone via a mobile faceplate.

What's it like to use?

Wareable's senior editor James Stables slapped the Dev Kit on his bonce over in Vegas for a quick demo and had this to say:

“The tech was impressive, using motion sensors that enables your hands to appear within the experience, allowing you to touch and interact with things in the virtual world. However, with limited demos, the Razer VR is going to remain an experiment for a long time unless the community, and even other brands, make use of the platform."

And that's the whole point. Razer isn't trying to impress anyone with its OSVR demos. It's simply providing the keys for developers to unlock the potential that VR alludes too.

Who else is onboard?


Big names such as LeapMotion, Sixense, Untold Games, Bosch and Virtuix have already pledged their support and the platform is backed by the Open Gaming Alliance. Game engine plug-ins such as Unity 3D, Unreal Engine 4 and HeroEngine will all be available for developers too.

LeapMotion is providing real time hand tracking technology, using a camera which is fixed on the front of the handset. That enables you to interact with items in the VR world just as you would in the real one.

What about content?


OSVR is unashamedly "all about the games", and you can get a full run-down of supported titles in our round up of the best OSVR titles. However, there are some serious highlights.

Ubisoft, the developer behind Assassin's Creed, Far Cry and Watch Dogs, is signed up, as is Nvidia Gameworks VR. That's two of the biggest industry names already on board so time will tell how big OSVR can really get.


How we test

Paul Lamkin


Wareable Media Group co-CEO Paul launched Wareable with James Stables in 2014, after working for a variety of the UK's biggest and best consumer tech publications including Pocket-lint, Forbes, Electric Pig, Tech Digest, What Laptop, T3 and has been a judge for the TechRadar Awards. 

Prior to founding Wareable, and subsequently The Ambient, he was the senior editor of MSN Tech and has written for a range of publications.

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