Sunday, February 22, 2015

Connecting a Smartphone to your VR Headset: How and Why?

If you have the right combination of a smartphone, an adapter and a VR headset, you can use the smartphone to drive the headset. Let's look at how it's done and why you might want to do it.


Many phones the ability to output a copy of their screen to an external monitor. Two prevalent standards to do so are MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) and SlimPort. Both provide a copy of the phone display to an external HDMI connector. For this purpose of driving a VR headset, both should be fine, and the choice depends on which method your phone supports. For example, for an LG G3 phone, this SlimPort adapter worked well for us.

Now that you have this in HDMI format, typically at 1920x1080, you'll want a VR headset that supports this resolution. This is a bit more tricky than it sounds because several 1080p headsets expect 1080x1920 portrait mode video format and thus are incompatible with the smartphone output. However, headsets such as the OSVR HDK and the professional Sensics dSight and zSight 1920 can accept standard 1080p landscape-mode video and display the phone output right away.

This approach is not limited to phones. Tablet such as the Google Nexus 7 also features a SlimPort output.


Obviously, phones or tablets have access to content that would be interesting to watch using a VR headset. For instance, has plenty of side-by-side movies that are suitable for a VR headset.

Headsets that accept standard 1920x1080 video typically have on-board video processing. This can also be used to turn a regular image into a side-by-side image by replicating it across both sides of the display. This can be very useful to experience non-3D content or standard applications.

One could also imagine a game being run on the phone and the headset being used as a display device. A Bluetooth motion tracker could be installed on the headset and communicate with the phone, or if you have the appropriate software installed on the phone (such as the OSVR software framework), you could communicate with the headset's USB tracker.

The alternative, of course, is to wear the phone on your head with the appropriate adapter - whether the Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard, Zeiss VR One and so forth.

What are the advantages of wearing the phone on your head?
  • No cables required.
  • No need to purchase SlimPort or MHL adapter.
  • Can use phone camera within application.
What are advantages of using the MHL or SlimPort method?
  • Can be used with any compatible phone or tablet
  • Reduces weight - no need to wear the battery, the phone case or other unnecessary components on the head. This is especially valuable with a tablet.
  • Allows using the phone's touch screen.
  • With the right headset, can also experience non-3D content or regular applications.
  • Can quickly connect and disconnect if required.
It's worth a try, in my opinion


Darshan Gayake said...

Isn't Avegant Glyph born out of this concept?

Connecting mobile devices with HMD. I think the while mobile devices indeed started packing excellent screens why any one need them to put something in face. The biggest lure is Big Screen entertainment. Sadly though Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard and any Screeen Magnifying HMDs are doing injustice here. As they magnify the screen so they magnify the artifacts, imperfections and pixel structure of core components like RGB or RG BG subpixel thus they kill the joy of watching big screen.

HMDs like RiFT and Gear VR has another issue of lenses being blurry and chromatically abrasion full at any place other then center.

Ideal 3D viewing where you don't need to move your eyeballs and even more tire some your entire head side by side to actually watch whats going on screen is 45 degree. So any HMD that does 90 Degree or 100 or 110 Degree got to keep the screen in virtual pan at such distance where image horizontally do not cross view of 45 degree.

Here though there is a funny opportunity. if you could independent head from screen with help of tracking in device and make screen stationary in visual orbit. you can still go up to 60 degree that should not cause too much strain on eyeballs. while building graphical theater in remaining space completes the illusion of being at IMAX.

Still in wide field of view hmds screendoor is biggest enemy of enjoying media. If Avegant can reach up to 60 degree while defying inevitable rainbows that born out of RGB cycling the inherent flaw of DLP tech. we could see a perfect mobile or tablet powered IMAX in Your BAG.

Jordan said...

Awesome post! I am definitely interested in seeing how this progresses. I think a lot more people would be interested in VR if they can integrate with their cell phones and other technology they're more familiar with. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.