During the first week of CS 491 Virtual and Augmented Reality course, we tried a lot of different devices and demos using VR and AR devices.
During the first day I tried CAVE2, HTC Vive and Microsoft Hololens. I was really fascinated about the CAVE2 because I've never seen something similar. It's really good for 3D visualization, especially when you want to show something to other people and you don't want to bring a lot of VR headsets. It creates an immersive environment thanks to the 72 lcd screen. On the other hand unfortunatly you can't have the total immersion that you have on a normal VR headset (for example looking up or down).
HTC Vive (headset + controllers) is a really good device that can let you feel a full virtual environment in which you can do lots of things. The biggest limitations in my opinion are the cables that limit your movements and the fact that you don't know how and where you are moving in the real world, so there is the risk to get injured or break something.
Finally I tried Hololens (but those are the ones I knew better because I tried them at Microsoft Build 2017 in a lot of demos). They differ from HTC Vive because they are an Augmented Reality device, so you can take the advantage and the support of both real world and virtual world. Moreover there are no cables because all the hardware is inside the device, that is another good advantage (but this lead to the disadvantage of having a not so light headset). The main disadvantage is that the field of view of the virtual screen is not so wide and it doesn't create a good effect.
In the second day, I tried two other experiences. Both of them can be played on a smartphone, so they don’t need an expensive additional hardware to work.
The first one is Quiver, an Augmented Reality application that allows you to use your phone camera to “pull from a paper” a 3D version of what is represented in 2D. The main limitation is that only certain ad hoc papers can be used, but it’s still very cool what you can do using only you smartphone’s camera. Moreover, you can write something or add colors on the drawing and the changes will appear in the 3D model that you can see through the camera.
Then we used our smartphone with the support of a google Cardboard in order to see a 360 video. It’s amazing that with a simple 5$ cardboard you can live a full Virtual experience. A limitation is the hardware that is not comparable with the one of ad hoc devices such as HTC Vive or Oculus rift. Moreover, without controllers you can only be a passive viewer and that’s a big disadvantage. There are some Bluetooth controllers that can be used, but they may not be compatible with some smartphones and/or VR applications. At the end I had the opportunity to try again HTC Vive with other two applications: Google Earth and one in which you can draw in 3D all around you. They are both really immersive and you can take advantage of the controllers in the first one to move everywhere around the world, while in the second one to create amazing 3D paintings and writings.
If I have to choose my favorite devices between all I used I would go for HTC Vive that is the most complete one. Even if I think that with some improvements (especially in the field of view) with Augmented Reality devices such as Hololens can be used in a lot of interesting applications.