The promise of affordable, high quality virtual reality may have come closer. A crowdsourced mobile VR setup launched on Kickstarter that promises to transform your smartphone into a SteamVR compatible VR setup for less than $100 has successfully made its funding target in just eight hours.
NOLO VR, a project by Beijing-based startup LYRobotix and led by Lisa Zhao, started their Kickstarter campaign yesterday on 31 January. Before even half a day had passed, it sailed past its initial goal of $50,000. As of the time of writing is incredibly close to doubling that goal, with 37 days left.
The aim of NOLO VR is to provide an interactive mobile virtual reality set up. It requires any Android 5.0 or higher smartphone that is compatible with Google Cardboard, as well as a Cardboard or Samsung GearVR compatible headset, several examples of which are available on NOLO’s Kickstarter as bundle pledge tiers. The NOLO itself consists of four other components:
First of all, there is the base station. This is a single wireless tracker that LYRobotix boasts can track movements within a 4 meter by 4 meter space with a tracking accuracy of less than 2mm. That is potentially very impressive for its price, apparently made possible by using LYRobotix’s proprietary PolarTraq technology. This combines with their headset marker, which can be attached to the top of your chosen VR headset and promises a tracking latency of less than 20ms. If it achieves this it is a low enough latency to avoid major motion sickness issues. Finally, the NOLO ships with two wireless controllers very similar in design and shape to HTC’s Vive controllers. LYRobotix has also partnered with RiftCat, a software already used to allow mobile phones to be compatible with SteamVR.
Democratising Virtual Reality?
The LYRobotix team claim to want to democratise Virtual Reality, which shows in the technology behind NOLO. Various attempts to hack together RiftCat, a Google Cardboard compatible headset and some form of controller have been considered ever since the software entered open beta last year. By putting all these existing technologies together with a single base tracking station, as well as making it simple and at an affordable price, NOLO has a real chance of not only capturing an existing niche in the virtual reality market but expanding the entire market exponentially. If this works and is successful, expect a legion of imitators based on the technology to be rushed to release.
Virtual Reality’s major issue in winning people over at the moment is almost entirely based on that initial cost. Any kind of VR set up that allows someone to try a wide range of VR systems (mobile VR, SteamVR and even Oculus via Revive) for $100 is going to do well. Even considering the extra cost of a Cardboard ready smartphone and headset it comes to less than the £400 for the Playstation VR, £500 for the Oculus Rift, £800 for the HTC Vive. This won’t fix the need for a very good computer to provide enough power to render all those VR games however.
NOLO VR is an extremely impressive looking piece of kit. If anything can successfully be the missing link between the litany of smartphone-based mobile VR equipment and more expensive tethered headsets, NOLO VR looks to be the best middle ground.
NOLO VR launched on Kickstarter on 31st January 2017, and its campaign will complete on 11th March, with an announced release date of May 2017.