It often feels like the fantasy of putting on a headset and immersing yourself in VR is as high cost as it is high-tech. Kaiser Baas’ VR-X headset looks to tackle that assumption head-on. The company’s latest tech suggests they aren’t just entering the emerging VR market for expansions sake alone. Rather, they’re approaching it with a clear plan and one that could very well resonate with consumers too quick to dismiss VR on price alone.
Unfortunately, a number of shortcomings hold back their VR-X headset from executing on its potential.
Coated in black and red, the VR-X’s shell design combines the accessibility of Google Cardboard with the techno-fetishism of more high-end VR offerings. Rather than snap your phone into the headset, it features a slide-out bay that allows for multiple phone sizes – making for a more flexible fit. Most modern smartphones are supported, assuming they’re VR-capable to begin with.
Theoretically, this versatile approach should make the VR-X a safer bet than a lot of its competitors. Unfoortunately, trying to fit any sort of phablet or larger-sized handset into the VR-X presents problems almost immediately. Worse still, the clip that’s supposed to hold your device in place has a terrible habit of unintentionally pressing the power button and turning it off. Another major other issue we encountered here was that the lens occasionally magnified the edge of the phone and not the screen.
All this plays out as a bit of a shame because it’s a genuinely good concept and design. Sliding your phone in carries with it a satisfaction and elegance that far exceeds that of the snap-in designs used by other headsets. It’s unfortunate that the experience carries too many caveats with it to outright recommend.
The positioning of the lenses in the headset can be further configured and refined with a pair of sliders located at the top of the VR-X. There’s also third magnetic slider on the side of the device that can be used with compatible software and even an air filter built into the design which prevents the lenses from fogging up. Meanwhile, the straps on the headset provide reasonably comfortable support. That said, they do apply a little too much pressure to the front of your face, particularly your nose. In addition, we encountered some difficulty finding a pair of headphones that could fit into the slide-out panel alongside our phone.
When we used the VR, we found that it quickly became a minor strain the neck. The VR-X is designed to be used with smartphone VR apps like Google Cardboard or Fulldive VR. We found this experience more-or-less serviceable but subject to all the usual limitations of this branch of the emerging virtual reality tree. There’s not a lot to do beyond viewing 360-degree photos and videos and it doesn’t really hold up over longer period-of-use.
All things considered, the VR-X isn’t the most comfortable virtual reality headset I’ve ever worn – but they’re definitely not the worst either. It certainly doesn’t help that the device comes with minor light leakage issues. The flat groove at the base of the unit that accounts for the users nose lets enough light in that it can often detract from VR experiences.
Still, there’s something to be said for the exterior aesthetics of the VR-X. Though it’s quick to smudge, the headset’s design remains a mostly-appealing one. From the outside, it looks capable of enabling a virtual-reality experience that’s everything you hope. In reality, it falls a short of that.
At $50, it’s hard to dismiss it entirely. Even if a little marred by issues, it does do a effective job of making the reality of smartphone VR feel more engaging and developed than it actually is at this stage.
The Kaiser Baas VR-X Headset retails for $49.95 and is available now.