Wow, a VR headset. Insert your iPhone and off you go, immersed into the another world. Virtual Reality has arrived!
You can start a stereoscopic 3D movie or a rollercoaster App, but most people want to play VR games. Real gamers want to play a FPS or Race game right away, but oh wait, the phone is in the headset and the touchscreen can't accessed to control the game. fail!
Google Cardboard button
Google came up with a brilliant solution back in 2014. The Google Cardboard, a cheap Cardboard VR headset with a magnetic button to control Apps. iPhone user were rulled out because the magnetic (v1) cardboard button only worked on smartphones with an Android OS. Fortunately, in 2015, Google came with the Cardboard V2 which has a conductive button that works on iOS devices like the iPhone.
After that, hundreds of iOS AppStore VR Games were created using the Cardboard SDK which made it possible to use the conductive button introducing a new way to control VR Games. By than lots of people had already bought (and still buy) Cardboards and VR Headsets that do not have a conductive button. Even if you have a conductive button, it's just 1 button. Not quite enough to play that killer FPS or to use as a steering wheel in race games. 🙁
So 1 button is much better than none. But it still doesn't satisfy most hardcore gamers.
Some mobile VR Headsets companies sell cheap Bluetooth controllers (glider) but this has very limited functionality on Apple iOS devices. In fact, after iOS 9.2 was released, these Blue tooth controllers were no longer supported and do not work with iOS 9.2 and above. So this is clearly a dead end.
Most VR Games need only one button or none at all. Game developers are exploring new ways of controlling games without using your hands. Looking at a certain location on the screen for a short time to activate something or auto-walk and auto-shoot are some of the more common ways to control iOS VR Games. Most car and motorcycle race games let you steer by tilting your head. Personally I hate that. It kinda kills the VR experience.
Here are some examples of fun games that found a good way to deal with this new reality:
Remoria VR iOS Game Controller
Remoria is developing a game controller especially for Virtual Reality gaming. It is not available yet, but you can check it out at RemoriaVR
VR Controller Crowfundings
Entrepeneurs like the awesome but not very succesful crowdfunding campaign RevolVR are creating VR controllers for first person shooting games. Other crowdfunding campaigns offer VR gloves, suites or big machines like Virtuix Omni. These are nice niche gadgets if you want to spend lots of cash and have the space (and an oculus rift), but most gamers are not willing to pay more than 60 bucks for a controller and refuse to pay more for a game controller than they did for the VR headset. It does just not feel right.
VR Headsets with integrated controls
Cmoar, a crowdfunded project which intends to create a VR headset with integrated sensors and buttons like the Gear VR - but iOS friendly, will possibly enlighten your existence in the near future. But we have not seen real life proof yet and VR crowdfundings projects have not always been a reliable way of being an early adopter.
Mainstream iOS VR Game Controllers
Where is the mainstream VR Game controller for your iPhone??
Well, lets start by saying: there is NO pure Apple supported VR Game controller (yet). There are good game controllers for iOS devices. Apple has an especial API (programming library) for game developers and game controller manufacturers to create 100% Apple compatible Game controllers and games. It's called MFi. If you want a good iOS compatible game controller, always go for the MFi supported controllers.
Don't get your hopes up though, the Google Cardboard SDK (Software Development Kit) does not have MFi support integrated in the code. Why should it, it's a free Google development kit and was created for Android. Later an iOS version was launched but special Apple iOS functionality like MFi and Metal layer support has not been added and is not likely to be added to an SDK which was developed by Apple's largest mobile operating system competitor.
There are a few games in the AppStore that have MFi controller support:
Thanks for the tip Carsten Hemso!
So what are your choices?
At the moment... Accept your faith as a iPhone user - Virtual Reality enthusiast and go with the least worst option: VR Headsets or Cardboards with a conductive button (v2). Lot's of fun! But I hope the future offers more than that...
Here are some possibilities:
Lets hope Apple launches a killer VR headset with a brilliant way of controller your favorite game.
Any better idea??! Please comment on this post and help other iOS VR enthusiast.