Razer OSVR: Everything you need to know about the virtual reality platform

There was big wearable news from Razer at CES with the Nabu X being unveiled and a European-release for the original Nabu confirmed, but it’s the Razer OSVR that could be the biggest sensation.

The San Diego gaming giant has teamed up with Sensics to launch the Open-Source Virtual Reality platform – an ecosystem of hardware and software that could mean a huge boom for VR technology.

Here’s all you need to know about OSVR…

The easiest way to explain OSVR is to compare it to Android. It’s an open sourced platform that Razer hopes developers, and even companies, will use to push the VR industry forward. Its objective is to be a software framework that sets new standards for virtual reality.

Like Android, it’s an open licensed ecosystem (in fact, on the same Apache Software License 2.0 as Google's mobile OS) that developers can use to create VR experiences – or more specifically, VR games – across any operating system, including Windows, Android and Linux.

“The point is to make it easier for developers,” Luca Di Fiore, director of R&D at Razer, told us. “If I’m a developer who wants to develop VR, I don’t want to really consider the shortcomings and distortions of each individual device and have to adjust to that. If you open up the system it prevents that.

“We are a lifestyle gaming company – we want to provide experiences that gamers feel comfortable about. Gaming should not be a locked system.”

Razer’s OSVR isn’t a rival to the likes of Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus and Samsung Gear VR. It’s designed to make is easier developers to develop for any VR hardware – without technical (software and hardware) limitations getting in their way.

“Oculus say they are open source, but they are not,” said Di Fiore. “They have done a fantastic job of getting VR on the front pages and their SDK is open source, but only for things that work on its hardware. On the device side they are locked.

“We don’t want to compete with Oculus, we want to support Oculus. If a developer wants to use our platform to support Oculus, he can – already today you can do that.”

There is hardware though, with the Hacker Development Kit due to start shipping in June, priced at $199.99.

However, like the OSVR software, the hardware is open source too – people can 3D print their own at home if they want to, with the 3D files available to download for free.

Wareable’s senior editor James Stables slapped the Dev Kit on his bonce over in Vegas for a quick demo and had this to say:

“The tech was impressive, using motion sensors that enables your hands to appear within the experience, allowing you to touch and interact with things in the virtual world. However, with limited demos, the Razer VR is going to remain an experiment for a long time unless the community, and even other brands, make use of the platform.”

And that’s the whole point. Razer isn’t trying to impress anyone with its OSVR demos. It’s simply providing the keys for developers to unlock the potential that VR alludes too.

Big names such as LeapMotion, Sixense, Untold Games, Bosch and Virtuix have already pledged their support and the platform is backed by the Open Gaming Alliance. Game engine plug-ins such as Unity 3D, Unreal Engine 4 and HeroEngine will all be available too.

If OSVR takes of, it could really be something – we’ll be keeping a close eye on this one.

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