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.