Nintendo Labo VR has been announced, with the Nintendo Switch VR kit set to release next month on April 12. While the four sets look to offer something different from the likes of Google Cardboard, utilizing peripherals such as a cardboard camera and elephant’s trunk, the jury’s still out on just how well they will function as virtual reality headsets. Unfortunately, while playing in VR on the Switch sounds excellent on paper, the technical limitations of the console could dramatically stifle the experience.
It is widely accepted that 90 frames per second is the optimal frame rate for virtual reality. With higher frame rates helping to immerse the player in a virtual world with no lag, anything below 90 fps can trigger undesired effects such as nausea or disorientation. As such, virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive boast screens with a 90 Hz refresh rate, while requiring a relatively powerful computer to run games in 90 fps or higher.
Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch is only capable of 60 fps and has a screen with a 720p resolution, meaning that games played using the Nintendo Labo VR kits aren’t exactly going to be the best-looking VR games on the market. As explained by VR software company IrisVR, “the goal for VR developers is to target 90 FPS at all times in their software. On the hardware side, this means that using a VR headset like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive requires the high processing and rendering capabilities of a “VR-Ready” PC, which mostly boils down to a powerful graphics card (GPU).”
But this won’t be possible with the Switch. While we haven’t gone hands-on with the Nintendo Labo VR kit yet, and we’re sure that Nintendo has employed workarounds to help improve the experience, it still won’t be capable of reaching that 90 FPS sweet spot. This could make for a sub-optimal experience, and be particularly troublesome for those known to experience nausea in VR.
The Nintendo Switch won’t be the first console to jump on virtual reality despite a lower frame rate. The PSVR saw VR devs being encouraged to hit 90 fps or a “solid 60 fps”, though Sony also employed a creative technique known as “reprojection” in order to increase the PSVR’s refresh rate to 120 Hz. While its quality doesn’t match the likes of the Vive or the Rift, it’s still impressive and does a good job of side-stepping the negative side-effects of VR, such as motion sickness.
With the Nintendo Labo VR only using the Switch hardware, it won’t be able to pull off such a technique. However, as it’s highly unlikely that the kit’s games will be 40-hour RPGs, it could avoid nausea by way of players not needing to spend lengthy play sessions with it. Hopefully, Nintendo has planned ahead for this potentially disastrous pitfall, as parents will no doubt be unhappy if their kids are left chundering after playing with this new gadget.