The Zeiss VR One’s Old-School Approach to Virtual Reality

By stressing the importance of optics, Carl Zeiss has created a simple, but shockingly functional headset.

Every low-cost answer to the Oculus Rift—the virtual-reality headset that’s had game developers and Hollywood directors salivating —works in more or less the same way: Slip a smartphone into a pair of “dumb” goggles, fire up an app, and, blammo, VR! It’s essentially the same concept as a ViewMaster. But unlike previous attempts—we’re looking at you, Google Cardboard—Zeiss’s VR One actually represents a technological move forward. Central in any of these simple VR setups are the lenses, which contort on-screen images into 3D pictures that take up your entire field of view. No one knows lenses better than Carl Zeiss, whose optics appear on everything from high-end D-SLRs to medical scopes. The VR One works with any smartphone with a 4.7– to 5.2–inch screen, comes with two apps, and will most-definitely blow your mind. [$99,]