The NOON VR Headset; VR Goes Mobile

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Virtual reality is slowly starting to infiltrate the mainstream market and now we can enjoy really good VR experiences on mobile, which is really exciting. VR headsets are popping up everywhere to tease us on the potential for virtual reality on mobile with some really good applications for both education and entertainment. However, the main question is are we ready for virtual reality on mobile?

To help answer that question Noon VR sent us their headset so we can experience the direction of smartphone virtual reality. After using it for awhile I have to say that it is a promising path, but not without its challenges. What this headset does is focus your eyes on the smartphone with the use of lenses, because it just so close to your eyes that your eyes cannot naturally focus this close. Any VR app on the phone will display both left and right frames side-by-side and use the gyroscope inside your smartphone to control the head movement.

Compatibility & Design

One of the major appeals of the Noon VR headset is smartphone compatibility, as it supports any iOS or Android smartphone between 4.7-inches to 5.7-inches. Behind the protective cover we find a flexible band that firmly holds the smartphone to the body and installing the OnePlus 2 you can see the small clips on either side that will prevent the phone from sliding out. Furthermore, these rotation clips at the bottom help to determine the right fit for your smartphone. Overall the mounting system is great, but with the protective cover on you have no access to any of the buttons or ports and that is unfortunate.

The design here is basic with a glossy protective cover and white frame for the main body. There is nothing particularly exciting about the design and it would definitely need further revisions for a slimmer and lighter structure. What we need to see from a VR headset like this is modular design that allows compact form factor so you can easily take it on the road with you, since at the moment in this state it is bulky and not travel friendly.

Comfort

A general improvement in the comfort department is needed, highly needed as the foam surrounding the frame just doesn’t hold up for comfortable long-term use despite the light frame design of just 230 grams for the headset itself. When on the main point of weakness is around the nose area. Not only do we have smaller padding there but the cutout on the frame is just too small and causes pressure to accumulate on my nose. This was such a disappointment because rearranging the fit to get rid of the pressure on the nose created all types of different uncomfortable pressure points around the face. A new frame design is needed for this to welcome the mainstream user.

Now comfort level aside, there is plenty of ventilation all around to get rid of any heat concentration, which is great. However, the cutouts inside actually introduce a bit of light leak, which in bright environments can be distracting. I’m happy to report the lenses are sharp with wide viewing angles, but keep in mind that due to internal frame size limitations the Noon VR headset is not compatible with glasses. The focus dial is available at the top to achieve sharp image quality, and throughout my few weeks of testing I have never experienced any eye fatigue. My only concern with the lenses is dust buildup, since even after unboxing and cleaning the lenses myself I can still see dust particles inside the lens. This doesn’t affect image quality yet, but I am worried about dust buildup in the long-term.

Software Experience

As far as the experience with the accompanying Noon VR app, it is a good platform with great VR navigation controls like tapping once to center the image or double tapping to access the menu and various image options. There is also the ability to control the volume. However, the availability of content is lacking, and all the recommended demos through the app a user created and its just so disappointing not to have an awesome VR demo out of the box.

Luckily for you, I have gone through pretty much all the VR apps from the Play Store and there are some amazing experiences available through the VRSE app. It has fantastic VR creations with outstanding quality, and also some other apps that let you experience a roller coaster or space-based shooters.

Image Quality

The quality of the VR image is determined by your smartphone, and as I have said before the lenses are excellent. However, pixels are visible on my OnePlus 2’s 5.5-inch 1080P screen. There is also latency in motion, but for a slight moment it’s totally fine. In those few demos that I tried I was content with the resolution. Also keep in mind to have if your phone’s screen has scratches they might be visible because the lens is focusing your eyes on the screen, which is literally less than an inch from your face.

Conclusion

And so to come back to the original question, are we ready for mobile VR? I would say that the mainstream demos are certainly appealing, but quality VR content is just so limited to a few select demos that this initial $90 investment into the Noon VR headset may not pay off in the one to two hours of VR playback. The headset needs to be modular to become travel friendly, and the main frame design should be reconsidered for this to be an appealing product for the mainstream. I’m curious if you have experienced virtual reality through your phone, what your thoughts and experiences are? We need to share all available knowledge so that if anybody is willing to pick up a VR headset they can go ahead and find that killer app to try out right away.

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