Razer OSVR Hacker Developer Kit 1.4 Review

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What Can (And Can’t) You Do With The OSVR HMD

Available OSVR Content

Just like the OSVR hardware, the Open Source VR ecosystem is still in its infancy and very much a work in progress. The platform is open for anyone to build for, but there isn’t a lot of native content available right now. What you do find is also at the mercy of driver updates. OSVR currently has four experiences that work without any intermediary API, but only one (Epic’s Showdown demo) functions with the latest GeForce build. Jeevan Aurol from Razer’s OSVR team told us that OSVR is “still in the midst of patching to support the latest Nvidia drivers.” Showdown is simply the first experience that has been fixed.

The other titles available for OSVR aren't that compelling anyway. Frankly, they're all just tech demos at this point. Epic Showdown came about to highlight the VR capabilities of Unreal Engine 4. It was first shown to press and developers at Oculus Connect in 2014 running on Oculus' Crescent Bay prototype. So, by today’s standards, Showdown really isn’t awe-inspiring. The content that makes OSVR compelling hails from SteamVR.

SteamVR With OSVR

That’s right, OSVR is compatible with SteamVR games thanks to Valve’s OpenVR API, which is not locked down to one piece of hardware. OpenVR makes it relatively easy for any HMD to interface with SteamVR games. Games don’t know (or care) about the headset plugged in. The API is completely open source; anyone can add support for any HMD. OSVR isn’t supported by the standard SteamVR build, but Razer worked with Valve to create a special beta of the platform specifically for the OSVR HDK that can be accessed with a special code.

With the OSVR SteamVR beta enabled, practically any seated game that uses a gamepad or keyboard/mouse (there are over 100 titles so far) should be compatible with the OSVR HDK 1.4.

Not all seated experiences work with the OSVR, though. We tried playing Kismet, a virtual reality fortune telling game that does work with the Rift and a gamepad, but doesn't run properly on the OSVR kit. SteamVR treats the OSVR HMD as if it were a Vive, and because of that, Kismet expects Vive controllers. I was able to get through the menus with a mouse, but once the game started, the mouse was useless. The gamepad didn't register at all.

We did get Project CARS working, along with several other SteamVR games.

Traditional Games With OSVR

There is a lot of content to choose from on SteamVR. However, what if you want to play older titles in VR? The OSVR HDK is supported by Vireio Perception, so you can actually do that. The open source Vireio Perception VR injection drivers are under active development, and the latest version, Vireio Perception 4.0 Alpha 2, lets you play Fallout 4 in VR.

Dolphin Emulator is another interesting option for gaming with the OSVR HDK. The Dolphin project is an open source Nintendo GameCube and Wii emulator. The software has been around in one form or another for over a decade, and last year the group announced it would be adding support for OSVR to let you experience Nintendo games in VR. Though we've seen steady updates to the emulator since then, we couldn't find any evidence that support exists yet.

More than Just Games

Although most of us associate VR with video games, there are plenty of other uses for virtual reality platforms. You can use the OSVR HDK to view 360-degree videos using the Bivrost 360Player, and OSVR hardware can be used to view adult content from Virtual Real Porn.

OSVR’s website lists several other media players that will soon support the platform. Littlstar and Vrideo, which are both 360-degree video hosting sites, have declared support for OSVR is coming soon. Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin’s Vrse, which produces high quality 360-degree short films with meaningful stories, is working on OSVR support as well. And YouVisit, a virtual reality tourism platform, also announced that you’ll soon be able to use OSVR hardware to view its catalog of virtual destinations.

But It’s Really Meant For Developers

The OSVR Hacker Developer Kit can certainly be used for entertainment, but that’s not really what it's for. The kit is intended for developers who want to make content for the OSVR ecosystem. There will be future HMDs that piggyback off of what Razer is doing with the HDK, and those will likely be better suited to gamers, though Razer is supporting the HDK as a consumer product. 

OSVR offers various resources for developers who wish to work with the platform, including a library of documentation and SDKs. This package includes links to the GitHub repository, along with information about building apps in Unity, Unreal, C, and C++. OSVR also offers guidance to build your own plug-in for the platform.

Free support is available to devs through community chat rooms, or by posting questions on the Github project page. You can also email OSVR support, which is “addressed by core developers.” If the free channels aren’t enough, OSVR says that some member companies offer premium support, which can include system engineering, driver authoring or phone calls. Of course, the premium route is subject to fees typically billed on an hourly basis. 

MORE: SteamVR Performance Test: 16 GPUs Compared

MORE: Beta SteamVR Interface Is Easy To Navigate, Offers Customization

 Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years. 

  • Jeff Fx
    > can a 60Hz 1080p display really deliver a compelling VR experience?

    If you can get games to work with it, maybe, if you haven't experienced modern VR and aren't susceptible to VR sickness.

    I had an eMagin 800x600 per eye VR system a decade ago, and it was pretty good for people who don't get VR sick, until Nvidia dropped support and it became useless.

    I'd recommend saving up for a Vive, the only full-VR system available today. Buying a low-quality alternative to something nice rarely turns out well. you'll just wind up junking it and spending the money on what you really wanted later.
  • John Nemesh
    The only thing worse than having buyers remorse after buying an $800 VR setup like the Vive is having buyers remorse after doing the "responsible" thing and finding out that it isn't what you really want...then flushing that "savings" down the toilet when you go and buy what you should have bought in the first place...
  • John Nemesh
    Wish I could edit posts...just for the record, I have ZERO buyers remorse with the Vive!
  • alidan
    Personally, all i want of vr is 3d, and track my head, that's it, no room scale no controllers, just simple sensors because what i want is a sit down experience with my head acting as a camera input, especially for racing games.
  • picture_perfect
    Sounds like a "me too" effort by Razer. I don't see much point in any more VR systems right now because the technology cap has already been hit by Oculus/Valve. Until computer performance increases we probably won't see much better. Well we might, but this isn't it.
  • caustin582
    I'm a Vive owner and while I have been pretty happy with my purchase, if there's one thing I could change it would be for it to have a higher resolution. Even at 1080x1200 per eye the individual pixels are easily visible and the image looks nowhere near as sharp as when I'm gaming on my old 1080p monitor. When the screen takes up such a wide field of view, the resolution needs to go way up in order to compensate.

    So it's kind of crazy to me that some companies think they can put out a good HMD that only splits a 1080p screen across both eyes. It might be worth it as a super-budget option for $99, but at $300 it's not all that cheap. Like it's not something most people are just going to buy on a whim and then happy forget about after they realize it looks ugly and makes them sick. Hate to be a downer but this really seems like the worst of both worlds. If you want a quick, cheap VR experience, you can build or buy a Google Cardboard. If you want the real thing, save up a little while longer and get an Oculus or Vive (or just wait until those are $300).
  • bit_user
    Thanks for the review, but just skimming the first page, I'm surprised not to see any mention of the HDK2.
  • bit_user
    18272515 said:
    Wish I could edit posts...
    You can in the forums. Just follow the link at the top of the comments.

    18272741 said:
    Sounds like a "me too" effort by Razer. I don't see much point in any more VR systems right now because the technology cap has already been hit by Oculus/Valve.
    Um, it was more of a "me first" effort, with the initial version beating them to market by about a year. I think the author dropped the ball on explaining HDKs origin and backstory. Although it's touched upon, in the last page, I think the rest of the review would've been better served by covering it in a little more depth, right up front. Otherwise, it's not clear why the product compares so poorly with Vive and Rift. It was made to compete with Oculus DK/DK2-era hardware. And the whole review should've been prefaced with the caveat that they're basically reviewing an obsolete product (see above point about HDK2).

    I'm also puzzled as to why you feel there's only room for 2 players, in this young and dynamic market. Would you say that about any other aspect of computer hardware? (true that, defacto, we have 2 players in CPUs and discrete GPUs, but that's more an issue of cost to enter those markets vs. upside potential).

    I'm really glad to see a low-cost solution in between phones and the premium PC HMDs. Maybe 1.4 isn't yet a compelling value offering, but I think there's definitely room for other players and other segments in this market than Vive/Rift.
  • JakeWearingKhakis
    Shoulda waited for the HDK2 to review really
  • kamhagh
    Doesn't look good :S even my 2k note 4 looks ridicules, I know you can't compare them ut you can compare the pixels :S my view is filled with dots

    BTW: why are all vr games stupid space games? :|