25 March 2015

REVIEW: Archos Virtual Reality Glasses

Virtually brilliant.

VR is making a big come-back, since its last hey-days in the 90s when everyone thought it was 'the next big thing'. Whereas then it was all about chunky headsets and special rings you had to stand in, these days VR is as easy as sticking your phone on your face. Oculus Rift might be hitting the headlines, but your smartphone is just as good, and since Google impressed us all last year with the delightfully lo-tech Cardboard headset, other companies have raced to produce their own sets. And so, we have a go on the Archos Virtual Reality Glasses.

For those not in the know, what a product like the Archos Virtual Reality Glasses are is basically a bit of plastic. No wires, no circuitry, no processor - just a means to hold your phone to your eyes in the most comfortable of ways. Whereas Google's efforts where made from flat-packed cardboard (hence the name, we assume) Archos have opted for something far more robust, and something that can accommodate pretty much any smartphone out there, not just their own products.

Able to take phones from 4.7 to 6 inch screens, the Archos Virtual Reality Glasses features adjustable hinges on the front with can be squeezed in to grip your phone and block out any other source of light. We tried ours with a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - a fairly large phone - and it fitted a treat. It is then a simple case of adjusting the elasticised head straps to fit, and then carefully pushing the two eye lenses one way or the other to centre on each eye. Then you're sorted.

After that it is all down to your phone and whatever apps you have installed on it. Fortunately there are already a tonne of VR apps in both the Play Store and the App Store (but not from the Windows Phone store - not really a surprise, that), ranging from playable games for which you do not need a controller, to immersive experience apps that let you wander around alien words, space stations in orbit, and through photo spheres in Google Earth.

The Archos Virtual Reality Glasses are very comfortable to wear for prolonged periods of time, and if you're anywhere as excited by VR as we are, that is a good thing. Archos very helpfully give a pretty comprehensivelist of currently downloadable apps on their website, which is a great first port of call once you're got your glasses.

One thing worth noting is that the Archos Virtual Reality Glasses do not feature any exterior controls, unlike the Google Cardboard which included a NFC-powered ring pull. This means that not all of the apps "made for cardboard" will be compatible with the Archos Virtual Reality Glasses, unless you have an external controller linked to your phone. However we found that most of the apps which need controlling like this will also accept input from something like a Bluetooth keyboard which can be added to your phone, but it is worth checking out before you download the app - because most VR apps are huge!

We really do love these things, and are really looking forward to more and more apps flooding the marketplace in the next few months. With the Archos Virtual Reality Glasses you know that no matter what smartphone you are accessing VR content on, you'll be sorted.


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