Anyone who’s even slightly followed virtual reality (VR) news over the past year will know about head-mounted displays (HMD) like the Google Cardboard for example. These are simple units that fit a compatible smartphone in the front to view VR content. Since Cardboard’s release the market has been inundated with similar devices, some better some worse. The better ones have taken the design ethos and advanced it with durable plastic components, head straps and more, but all serve the same function and choosing one can be down to aesthetics rather than usability. For companies in this field it can be difficult to highlight their product, but one company is trying a hardware and software approach to get their message across.
Fibrum is a Russian-based company that is software orientated but has started to manufacture mobile VR headsets to compliment the apps it’s creating. Finding the company in the chaos of the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2016, VRFocus met with Fibrum CEO Ilya Flaks who was showcasing the Fibrum Pro HMD along with several applications and videogames.
First the headset, the Fibrum Pro is an ergonomic, comfortable HMD that serves its purpose well. It’s bold blue and black styling gives it a futuristic look and the build quality is decent enough that you wouldn’t worry about dropping and breaking it as long as your phone wasn’t clipped in. But that’s about it, once you’ve tried one of these type of headsets differences between them are few and far between, with only the worst worth taking note of to avoid.
So the HMD is fine but what about Fibrum’s ace up its sleeve, the software? The company has been developing a range of apps and content for users to enjoy and VRFocus got to try the Rollercoaster and VR Cinema. Theme park rollercoasters have been a stable of the VR industry for a while, if the immersion is done correctly the sweeping motions round corners and steep fast drops can almost be felt by the viewer. And Fibrum’s is no different, set in a forest/jungle style setting, the environment is vivid and colourful while the track has a suitable amount of twists and turns over the 30-seconds or so that it makes for a nice experience, great for those who are new to VR.
In the VR Cinema Fibrum had a clip from the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens film. Looking around the dimly lit cinema the viewer is placed quite near to the front, sat in the middle of the rows of seats with a giant screen in front. Viewing films on VR headsets can be fun but never truly shows off the best of what the technology can do, and its not as though the film was in anyway near Blu-ray quality to be worth watching it with a HMD strapped to your face.
But what might set the company out from the crowd is its streaming application. This allows PC games running on a desktop or laptop to be played directly through a smartphone and HMD, completely wirelessly. Trying out a first-person shooter (FPS) running on the teams laptop with a bluetooth controller the videogame streamed really well with no noticeable lag, the only downside was the screen resolution. It wasn’t sharp giving a general haziness to the quality, this maybe due to the Wi-Fi at CES and at home this may improve. Wandering around the arena shooting other players was consistent with no motion-sickness, although others may fair worse. A nice touch came by way of aiming, you could use the controller as normal or use the built-in head-tracking. Trying both, the head-tracking became a much more efficient method of dispatching enemies.
All in all Fibrum’s hardware and software did what its was meant to. The demoed apps and headset aren’t going to set the industry on fire but they fulfil their purpose. The steaming side will be the company’s biggest draw as long as quality and minimal latency can be maintained, so there’s definitely more to come from them.