Razer launches open-source OSVR project

January 8, 2015 // 12:14 p.m.

Tags: #head-mounted-display #hmd #igda #oculus-rift #oculus-vr #oga #open-hardware #open-source #osvr #virtual-reality #virtual-reality-headset

Peripherals maker Razer has announced its latest attempt to break out of its core market, with an open-source virtual reality headset and supporting software ecosystem designed to take on the mighty Oculus VR.

While Razer is best known for its families of gaming mice and keyboards, the company has in recent years been testing the waters in a variety of other markets including gaming laptops and tablets. Now, it has indicated that it will launch a virtual reality headset dubbed the OSVR, under an open source licence that will make it possible for third parties to design and build their own implementations for both desktop and mobile use.

'Gaming is moving towards the virtual reality platform and this poses huge benefits and challenges to gamers at every level,' claimed Min-Liang Tan, Razer co-founder and chief executive, at the project's Consumer Electronics Show unveiling this week. 'OSVR brings game developers, gamers and hardware manufacturers together to solve those challenges and make virtual reality gaming a reality for the masses.'

Razer has already gathered considerable support for the project from companies including LeapMotion, Virtuix, Bosch, Sensics, GameFace, Gearbox, Techland, and both the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and the Open Gaming Alliance (OGA). Its first official product in the OSVR range is to be a low-cost head-mounted display, the OSVR Hacker Development Kit, priced at $199.99 and featuring a 5.5in Full HD display, dual-element optics offering a 90 degree field of view horizontally and vertically, and a connected belt-box module powered by a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) featuring signal booster and integrated surround-sound audio codec alongside USB 3.0 connectivity for accessories.

The hardware isn't expected to launch until June, but the company has already opened up the software side of the system - the OSVR software development kit (SDK) to a limited number of developers. The OSVR SDK includes initial support for the Unity 3D game engine, with Unreal Engine 4 support due to be completed by the end of the month and additional plugins for HeroEngine and further game engines to be announced in the near future.

'The OGA is committed to an open ecosystem for the gaming industry, and is pleased to support the efforts of the OSVR,' crowed Drew Johnston, president of the Open Gaming Alliance, of Razer's project. 'A free, open source VR development solution supporting multiple headset manufacturers, diverse game engines, and multiple platforms is exactly what game developers and publishers need to accelerate VR gaming adoption.'

For those interested in building their own, schematics for a prototype OSVR headset, version 0.5, are available upon request from the official website.
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