With virtual reality poised to change the way we learn, shop, travel, and socialize—not to mention play video games—this seems like an ideal time to examine the key to entering this bold new domain. After all, without a VR headset, there's no way to step inside the VR world. (Read our report, "Virtual Reality Goes Mainstream.")

Here are the five options that will be available in the year ahead, complete with info on the platforms that support them and an early look at some content for each device.

Google Cardboard

Platform: Android, iOS
Release date: Available now
 

Samsung Gear VR

Platform: Android
Release date: Available now
 

Oculus Rift

Platform: PC
Release date: First quarter of 2016
 

HTC Vive

Platform: PC
Release date: April 2016

PS VR

Platform: Sony ­PlayStation 4
Release date: First half of 2016

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the March 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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