Samsung saw an opportunity to jump into the VR mix and partnered with Oculus. They’ve produced a headset that looks like the most consumer-ready device to date. Samsung’s Gear VR Innovator Edition is exactly what you would expect from the established tech giant both in terms of quality and usability. It’s also the most expensive option, coming in at an msrp of $200 for the headset + $750 (off-contract) for the phone required to power it. Unlike Google’s Cardboard, the Gear VR only works with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4, so if you’re lucky enough to already own one you can save yourself a significant amount of money.
The design of innovator
The headset itself is very well designed and quite intuitive. There’s a volume toggle, touchpad, and “back” button on the right side of the headset that can be used to easily navigate through VR experiences and applications. The top of the headset holds a focus wheel that is used to adjust the focus to optimal range for your eyes. Two straps hold the unit firmly on your head which seals your vision off from the outside world to improve the sense of immersion. Plus, the absence of any cables tethering you to a computer helps make the experience more enjoyable and portable.
There’s no need to take the unit off your head to download or switch applications…everything can be done through the Oculus Home menu or Samsung’s application library after the initial setup and configuration. There are a handful of interesting and useful apps included out of the box such as Oculus Cinema – for watching movies and videos in a virtual cinema, Oculus 360 Photos – for viewing panoramic photos, and Oculus 360 Videos – for viewing panoramic videos. Samsung also recently released a marketplace called Milk VR which is basically YouTube for VR.
Click here, to see the reaction and some more information about the Samsung’s Gear VR innovator.
The downside – a case of the judders
We’ve found that many of the applications available now are graphics heavy and the experience can degrade quickly without a good graphics card. It is worth noting that experiences involving 3D graphics and rapid motion can quickly become nauseating to some folks due to frame-rate or GPU restrictions and phenomena known as “judder” (when the images become smeared, strobed or otherwise distorted), so it is really the responsibility of developers to create “comfortable” experiences which aim to minimize judder. Despite the drawbacks – when used in tandem with a computer that has a high-end GPU, the result is a sense of immersion that 10 years ago would have seemed impossible. The Oculus developer site currently lists both a PC and Mobile SDK which include integrations for Unity and Unreal game engines. The PC SDK is intended for the Rift DK2 where-as the Mobile SDK is intended for Oculus powered devices which leverage mobile phones.
VR – the future is here (oh, really, really close)
We’re just starting to crack the surface with VR. The emergence of panoramic video and photo is making it easy to “teleport” viewers to places they could never physically be.
Imagine a front row seat to watch your favourite band play live…with the freedom to look in any direction in real time. Imagine walking (literally…walking) through your favourite national park as if you were there. Imagine sitting in a conference room half way around the world and interacting with others as if you were there. These are just a few of the amazing applications that VR devices like the Oculus Rift enable. So, stay tuned – if current progress is any indication, virtual reality is here to stay, and it’ll be invading your living room or office much sooner than you might think.