All-in-one VR headsets are the future. Intuitive operation and untethered experiences will likely move VR past the fringes and into mainstream entertainment culture. Nevertheless, all-in-one HMDs will only truly excel with positional tracking. 

Samsung recently revealed its all-in-one reference design at Shanghai's Mobile World Congress. Samsung's ExynosVR III joins Qualcomm's Snapdragon VR and Intel's Project Alloy as high profile all-in-one VR reference designs.

Developers can get familiar with early versions of the tech through these reference designs, quickening the release of optimized software once a hardware product has been made. Qualcomm's reference design is already behind one such high profile launch. Google and HTC's upcoming all-in-one VR headset is being constructed based off of Qualcomm's reference. Oculus is also currently working on a prototype, Santa Cruz.

An early look at the Santa Cruz prototype.

With all the major VR hardware providers investing in the technology, it's clear that all-in-ones represent the next wave of VR HMD technology. Its intuitiveness and openness for mobility cannot be understated. Nevertheless, creating an all-in-one platform does not immediately solve all of the VR headsets' current limitations.

The All-in-One Solution

All-in-one headsets offer three clear benefits. For starters, there are no hidden costs. Currently, mobile-based VR is offered at the deceptively low price of under $100 USD for a headset. That headset, however, is useless without a modern smartphone - a purchase that is usually at least $500. PC-VR setups are even pricier with consumers needing to spend near to a thousand dollars before owning a machine that can even properly run VR. The PSVR will not run without a PS4. The cost of an all-in-one, however high, will reflect a one-time simple payment; something easier for the consumer to understand.

In addition, all all-in-one experiences will be untethered, which means no cords. This will make the device more accessible, as users will not be turned off by a cord they could trip over.

In reality, it is part of all-in-one's greatest appeal: simplicity. Its audience will not have to be console gamers or PC experts. To use an all-in-one, the user places it on their head and turns it on. This will very likely widen the market appeal of the device.

Project Alloy allows for merged reality, an advanced VR tech that lets physical objects interact with the virtual world.

The Importance of Positional Tracking

It is important to remember that all-in-ones are not a mobile technology in and of themselves. The Pico Goblin, for example, is the first all-in-one headset reaching the North American consumer market. While it is an impressive package for its price, it lacks any form of positional tracking. Positional tracking detects the exact position of the HMDs, controllers, and additional objects or limbs within a three-dimensional space. Simply put, it allows the headset to monitor the world around the user, making sure they can move without colliding with any obstacles. The Pico Goblin is untethered but users are still blind.

The encouraging news is that the high-end reference designs and prototypes all support positional tracking. Some, like Samsung's ExynosVR III support other advanced technology like eye-tracking as well. With positional tracking is a staple feature, all-in-ones will be able to provide the inherent user freedom that their design suggests.