FreeflyVR, the Model X of the Cardboard Crowd
As I hope many of you have learned (or are starting to learn) from first-hand knowledge: mobile VR is incredible. The GearVR may have been the fanciest hat thrown into the ring so far (and come on, it’s pretty great,) but chances are good that if you’re reading this you are already accustomed with Google Cardboard as well. By focusing on accessibility over features Google showed the public at large how revolutionary this technology will be. Then came the others. There are so many different possible devices that you can set a smartphone into, now. I would love to eventually try them all, and in pursuit of this I have started searching for the most promising candidates.
It may astonish some to read that I am currently entrenched in the iOS ecosystem. In the field of digital media and design Mac was my first platform. For that reason when I started I had a mac in my home, and worked on a mac all day. This meant that it was logical, from an IoT/ecosystem standpoint, to get an AppleTV when the time came for a streaming box, an iPhone, and an iPad. Apple has many flaws, but something that I feel they do very well is their interconnectivity within their ecosystem. I’m currently waiting for the right time to transition to a different ecosystem, but that’s an entirely different topic for another time. The reason I brought all of this up is: I needed to start with a device that would accommodate my enormous iOS device (a 6+.) I settled on a FreeflyVR pretty early on. It was only a matter of time before I could get one shipped to me, and I have been quite pleased since.
First and foremost: it functions. Everything works as intended and, even though it might seem like a given, not everyone gets that right. Freefly has no features that get in the way of being able to enjoy any mobile VR experiences iOS has to offer. I knew that I wanted to be hands-free in my VR, so something with a strap was a must. Their headset has horizontal and vertical support straps (much like the Oculus Rift DK2) which keep everything snugly and securely in front of my eyes. There is a comfortable cushion that rings the eyes making long-term use quite comfortable. This is the presidential suite of “cardboard-esque” mobile HMD mounts. Everything about it conveyed a sense of comfort to me, even down to the sturdy carrying case that accompanied the device. I was quite pleased with how well it handled the size of my phone, as well. There is a rather large, albeit very sturdy, case on my phone and I was concerned this would interfere with the retractable arms ability to hold my phone. However, thanks to the strength of the spring system and foam pads that surrounded my phone on 5 sides, the fit was tight and very easy to get in and out.
Some people have seemed intimidated by the price-point. At the time of this writing the Freefly is $79.99 which might be high compared to the $12.99 price on Amazon for some Cardboard viewers with head straps. Of course you don’t need to spend 80 dollars just to access the world of mobile VR, but I looked at it this way: if you’re going driving into new and fantastical lands in a brand-new vehicle, would you rather go in a Smart Car? Or a Tesla Model X?