Why it matters to you
The Nintendo Switch may be able to handle virtual reality, though early testing suggests there would be some major drawbacks. Using an off-the-shelf virtual reality headset and a hack that makes it possible to hijack the browser on his Switch, one YouTuber has watched 3D video content using the Nintendo hardware, suggesting that Switch VR may well be doable if Nintendo decides to take a swing at it.
Since the PSVR was first debuted for the PlayStation 4 there has been much talk of fellow generational systems like the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch offering much the same. While Project Scorpio should have the power to make it a (virtual) reality, many have wondered whether Nintendo could do so with the Switch, perhaps leveraging its tablet display.
As Nintendrew found in his testing, it is sort of possible. Using an aftermarket VR headset designed for generic tablets of the Switch’s size, he managed to get a 3D video running on it and view it through a pair of lenses.
The experience isn’t exactly ideal, as the its screen has only a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, far lower than that of other consumer-grade VR headsets. Also, due to the physical size of the Switch’s screen, only a section of it was visible in the custom setup that the Nintendrew created.
However, as he points out in the video, as a proof of concept, it does actually work. It’s not a perfect solution and would certainly not have sufficient specs compared to the likes of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PSVR or even the Samsung Gear VR, but the potential is there.
If Nintendo could come up with a way to mitigate the aliasing and screen door effect of such a low-resolution display being placed mere inches from a person’s face, it already has decent motion controls that could be used for in-game interaction.
However, the Switch doesn’t have any sort of camera on it, so unless Nintendo released a headset with sensors and trackers or some sort of inside-out tracking solution, positional tracking with the system wouldn’t be possible. At that point, if Nintendo were to bring VR to the Switch, it may be better off building a brand new headset and having the gameplay stream wirelessly from the Switch base station instead.
But then you run into issues with latency and we haven’t even begun to addresses the potential problem with the industry- accepted 90-frames-per-second minimum that is required for virtual reality experiences to be comfortable for the user.
The real answer to the question of whether the Switch can handle VR, for now, is “maybe.” It may technically be able to display some aspects of virtual reality content, but it would have far weaker capabilities than its competitors. Though Nintendo has been able to do a lot with lower specifications with traditional gaming in the past, it’s hard to imagine it being able to compete on a VR front with the Switch.