All posts by Lucy Ingham

Virtual rivals: the battle of the VR headsets heats up

It’s been a busy week for virtual reality. Sony’s long-awaited headset for the PS4, Project Morpheus, was unveiled on Tuesday, and Oculus Rift’s Development Kit 2 was announced on Wednesday.

But these were not the only VR headsets making waves this week. Over at London’s Wearable Technology Conference vrAse was wowing developers and tech press hounds alike, while 3D printed Altergaze hit a quarter of its Kickstarter campaign target with over a month to go.

Both products differ from Sony and Oculus’ offerings in that they are designed to work with your smartphone: by slotting your phone into either headset it becomes an effective VR device for gaming and 3D video.

Kickstarter has played a powerful role in getting VR headsets off the ground. Both vrAse and Oculus were also Kickstarter-funded, and there is clearly an appetite among would-be backers for this kind of tech.


vrAse is pitching to a different market to Oculus in that its expected to be quite a bit cheaper, at less than £100. It’s also going for a slightly different approach by showing off its headset as an on-the-go device for use on planes, trains and out and about.

The headset is designed to work with a wide variety of smartphones. vrAse has created a ‘perfect fit’ model for leading handsets, including the iPhone 5, HTC One and Galaxy Note 2, as well as a standard model that works with phones sized between 3.5” to 6.3”, although the company recommends using smartphones sized between 5” and 6”.

vrAse can be used to watch 3D videos, play games in 3D with a bluetooth controller and as an AR device.

We had the pleasure of trying out vrAse at this week’s Wearable Technology Conference and were pretty impressed with the results. The game we tried, a rollercoaster simulator, was incredibly immersive and the 3D video felt very realistic.


However, a would-be contender to vrAse has popped up on Kickstarter in the form of Altergaze. The Altergaze headset functions very similarly to vrAse in that you put your smartphone into it to get a VR headset you can play games and watch videos on.

The key difference with Altergaze is that its 3D printed. This means that the cost is very low, and enables a very wide range of customisation – an appealing option for a technology that runs the risk of making you look a little silly if worn in public.

Altergaze is also using this manufacturing method to boost worldwide distribution by encouraging 3D print shops to become manufacturers.

The 3D printed, slotted together style of Altergaze also makes it resemble old fashioned goggles, giving it potential appeal with the steampunk crowd.

All in all, though, the key question will be whether these cheaper, smartphone-based VR headsets will appeal to users enough to let them contend with the big boys. In the long run their price and versatility might even give them an advantage.

Images courtesy of vrAse and Altergaze.

In Pictures: Remarkable Designs for Future Skyscrapers

Today eVolo Magazine announced the winners of its annual skyscraper design competition, which is a competition that has been running for eight years to “recognize outstanding ideas for vertical living through the novel use of technology, materials, programs, aesthetics, and spatial organizations.”

With a top prize of $5,000, the competition is always hotly contended, attracting designs from architects, students and designers from around the world.

Here we pick our ten favourites from the winners and honourable mentions.

Winner: Vernacular Versatility

Designer: Yong Ju Lee


This beautiful design is based on the traditional wooden structural system used in Korean houses, known as Hanoks. But Hanocks have traditionally only been one storey: Ju Lee has really innovated in making the structure work as a skyscraper.

Second Place: Car And Shell Skyscraper: Or Marinetti’s Monster

Designers: Mark Talbot, Daniel Markiewicz


This city in the sky proposal is designed for the US city of Detroit. Designed in a grid system encompassing recreational and commercial areas, the design comes with a manifesto for the bankrupt city.

Honourable Mention: Sand Babel: Solar-Powered 3D Printed Tower

Designers: Qiu Song, Kang Pengfei, Bai Ying, Ren Nuoya, Guo Shen

This desert-based design is meant as a tourist attraction-cum-research facility made by 3D printing sand. The project takes inspiration from various natural elements to create and beautiful and organic-looking structure.

Honourable Mention: Climatology Tower

Designers: Yuan-Sung Hsiao, Yuko Ochiai, Jia-Wei Liu, Hung-Lin Hsieh

This design is for an urban research centre to assess a city’s climate and improve the environment with mechanical engineering. The project is designed to be a kind of doctor for a city, identifying microclimate problems and taking steps to resolve them.

Honourable Mention: Hyper-Speed Vertical Train Hub

Designers: Christopher Christophi, Lucas Mazarrasa

This design is a proposal for a future transport hub that utilises the vertical exterior of the building for tracks as a way of saving increasingly fought-over space. The carriage interiors will pivot like a ferris wheel, ensuring that passengers always remain upright.

Honourable Mention: Bamboo Forest: Skyscrapers and Scaffoldings In Symbiosis

Designer: Thibaut Deprez

This design takes inspiration from bamboo scaffolding, which is used in many parts of Asia, to create skyscrapers that are extremely flexible in use. A grid design means each unit can be easily customised, enabling occupants to adjust the space to meet their needs.

Honourable Mention: PieXus Tower: Maritime Transportation Hub Skyscraper For Hong Kong

Designers: Chris Thackrey, Steven Ma, Bao An Nguyen Phuoc, Christos Koukis, Matus Nedecky

Designed as a transportation hub for the ever-crowded Hong Kong, this project is intended to neighbour the main ferry terminal. The flowing shapes around the outside not only look amazing but also serve a purpose: they allow cars to drive up the tower to access shops, business shapes and residential areas.

Honourable Mention: Hyper Filter Skyscraper

Designer: Umarov Alexey

This pine cone-like design provides a valuable environmental function to smoggy and polluted cities: it ‘breathes’. Each tube-like protrusion is designed to inhale carbon dioxide and other harmful gases and exhale concentrated oxygen, cleaning the air of cities in a striking and unusual way.

Honourable Mention: Project Blue

Designers: Yang Siqi, Zhan Beidi, Zhao Renbo, Zhang Tianshuo

Polluted air was a definite trend this year: Project Blue is also designed to tackle city smog, but this time with an added benefit. The structures are upside-down cooling towers that extract surplus carbon dioxide and convert it into water coal, which can in turn be converted into methane for use as fuel.

Honourable Mention: Urban Alloy Tower

Designers: Matt Bowles, Chad Kellog

This stunning design is intended for existing cities such as New York to create new living space without needing to knock down buildings. It sits around existing transport interchanges, and uses a unique structural method to maximise both views and light access.

Images courtesy of eVolo.