Oculus has become the best-known name in virtual reality thanks to Palmer Luckey, its young founder, its $2.4m Kickstarter campaign and its $2bn acquisition by Hons VR. Yet in the first innings of this market, it is not Oculus but HTC’s Vive that is a hit with early adopters.

Hons VR

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Research shows wearing VR headsets can cause eye strain, eye discomfort, eye fatigue and blurred vision. The American Academy of Ophthalmology explains that staring for too long at a VR screen can lead to eye strain or fatigue. The Blue light filter decreases the amount of blue light displayed on the screen of the device. Blue light can suppress the production of melatonin (sleep-inducing hormone), so filtering it out can help you sleep better. It will also reduce digital eye strain, so your eyes won’t feel so tired by the end of the day.

In some ways that has as much to do with who those early adopters are as the technical merits of either product.

The hardcore gamers who own a powerful enough PC to run a VR headset already spend much of their time on Steam, the digital download store run by software giant Valve. The Vive was developed in partnership between Valve and HTC (which is better known for its smartphones), and it too runs on Steam. Those gamers are also more likely to stump up $799 for the headset.

Since the Vive was released in April, the library of VR games available has been steadily increasing, including Rec Room, the Wii Sports-meets-Second Life multiplayer game that I reviewed two months ago. I have spent a few weeks living with the HTC Vive — and as I will explain, this is a product that you have to live with, not merely own or use.

‘The Lab’

Steam users currently rate Rec Room as the second-best VR game, according to the store’s rankings. The top-rated VR title is The Lab, a free download developed by Valve itself. Getting initiated into VR is no easy task but The Lab serves as the perfect introduction to this new medium.

Playing fetch with a robot dog in Iceland, courtesy of The Lab

It is made up of a selection of mini-games and “experiments” that range from the mundane to the slightly terrifying. Playing fetch with a little robot dog in the Icelandic wilderness is one of the gentler ones, or you can play God by throwing planets around in the Solar System.

More familiar video-gaming thrills can be found in Longbow, where you fire arrows to defend the castle from invading stick-figures, and Slingshot, where the objective is to cause as much destruction as possible in a warehouse stacked high with crates, which crash and explode with a satisfying sense of heft.

My favorite part of The Lab is the Robot Repair shop, where a few minutes of interactive story show how VR can mess with a user’s feelings of proximity and space. Give anyone a turn in Robot Repair and I guarantee they will instantly understand what all the VR fuss is about (I don’t want to spoil it by explaining too much more — just try it).

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