3 Body Problem VR headset review: magical tech in need of more apps

Arthur C. Clarke famously said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and that’s never been more true than with the 3 Body Problem VR headset. It’s so far ahead of everything else on the market that it doesn’t seem possible. There’s really no doubt: this is the best way to experience virtual reality. Sadly, there’s far too little software to take advantage of all of that advanced tech; at launch, there’s only a single app available. And even though that one app is a game that could alter the fate of mankind forever, that doesn’t quite nudge the headset into “must buy” territory.

But let’s start with that hardware because it is indeed incredible. It’s a sleek metallic headset that’s so light you can barely feel it at all. It’s completely wireless, and unlike, say, the Apple Vision Pro, it seems to work for just about everyone right out of the box. No fussing around with visual settings or specially-fitted seals. Just put it on and go. There are also no loading times, and the battery life appears to be infinite. How they managed to squeeze all of that inside such a tiny device is baffling. I’m eagerly awaiting the moment iFixit gets their hands on it.

It’s also easy to look over perhaps the headset’s biggest innovation: despite being made entirely of some type of shiny metal, it’s impossible to scratch or leave fingerprints. No matter how much you handle it, the device looks like it just came out of the box. Now that’s something that needs to become the norm industrywide.

If you were to judge the 3 Body headset solely on how well it works, there’s not much to say other than it’s a truly incredible product, to the point that it feels centuries ahead of other commercial VR headsets. Literally. Virtual reality has been waiting for this moment as a way to convince the masses. But a gadget itself can only take you so far, and unfortunately, the development community hasn’t quite caught up to the headset.

At launch, there’s only one game available and nothing else. No Netflix or Spotify. No productivity apps. Now, to be fair, that game is amazing. Called simply Three-Body, it’s a historical epic that’s sort of like an immersive take on Civilization, tasking players with helping a society survive a series of catastrophes. It has a steep learning curve, but once you understand the basics, it’s really hard to put down. Much of that comes down to the headset itself. When I say immersive, I mean it; it’s almost impossible to discern the reality of the game from that of the outside world. You can see, feel, hear, and touch everything in the game, and all without any kind of specialized controllers. It’s all contained within the headset itself. Calling it virtual reality is almost underselling the experience.

Calling it virtual reality is almost underselling the experience

It’s a great game that also makes it clear just how amazing this device could be in other contexts. Imagine chatting with friends on the other side of the world with avatars that actually look like you or getting the chance to step foot in places like Arrakis or Midgar, rendered as to be indistinguishable from the real world. That’s all theoretical for now, though. At present, the 3 Body headset is an unbelievable device that can only do one very specific thing.

Of course, all of this is largely moot anyways because you can’t actually buy it. The headset isn’t available in any store or online. It’s not clear how much, if anything, it costs. It just sort of shows up for some people, and how it arrives and who it’s sent to is largely a mystery. It’s like the most elaborate soft launch of all time. If the software and availability kinks ever get worked out, though, the headset could end up being a defining moment in consumer technology — the kind of thing that could actually change the world.

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