One of the more exciting developments in technology at the moment has to be virtual reality, and it has the potential to change entertainment as we know it. If you own a Samsung phone, you’ve had the chance to be at the forefront for an early adopter’s fee, but that will soon be dropped, and that can only be a good thing.
This week, Samsung is ready to tell the world that its tests and trials of the early “Innovator” editions of its Gear VR headsets for the Note 4 late last year and the Gear S6 and S6 Edge only a few months ago have been successful, and now it has something that regular people will be able to play with.
Better, they shouldn’t have to spend too much money to get that opportunity.
“Samsung has been at the forefront of delivering mobile experiences and ‘Gear VR Innovator Edition’ launched last year was no exception,” said Samsung’s JK Shin, CEO and President of IT and Mobile Division.
“We see virtual reality as the next computing platform, and we are thrilled to partner with Oculus on Gear VR to set the standard for mobile VR and bring this revolutionary product to consumers.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the whole “VR” term and think of it only as a buzzword to grab your attention and try and steal money from that wallet of yours, you are half right, but it’s a little more than unnecessary jargon.
Rather, “VR” is actually read as “virtual reality”, and in the latest attempt to bring this to life (because VR was also a thing back in the 90s), we’re seeing companies like Oculus, Valve, Samsung, HTC, Google, and Facebook attempt to find a way to bring entertainment and information to our eyes, relying on computers, high resolution screens, and speciality head-gear to do this.
Oculus is one name that has practically led this charge, and Samsung got in early with the company, finding a way to leverage its high-resolution mobile phones as the screens by encasing these in a specialist headset. With the hard part out of the way, Samsung and Oculus have together been working on a mobile virtual reality environment, and that’s what Gear VR essentially is, allowing anyone to take a virtual world with them providing encapsulated entertainment where ever a headset and a phone is at the time.
These editions were essentially made for early adopters, however, giving those with more than a passing interesting in virtual reality a glimpse at the new technology before it was commoditised and made available for everyone else.
According to Samsung, however, we’re pretty much ready for a proper commercial release.
So what’s new and different about this release compared to the original innovator models?
Based on what we’re seeing, there have been improvements to the design, with a reduction in weight which in turn should lead to a more comfortable design.
A change to the foam cushioning should also help, and Samsung has changed the touchpad on the side with what appears to be a slight physical change now allowing you to feel the directional pad, as this was always a little too flat to work out how to swipe left, right, up, and down.
We’re also told that the new model will support more Samsung handsets, meaning you won’t just need one type of phone in order to make the Gear VR work, a problem which popped up on both of the previous Gear VR Innovator models.
Aside for the changes to hardware, we’ve heard that services like Netflix should make their way to the Gear VR soon, as will other media services, allowing you to watch your favourite movies and TV shows on a screen that feels like it’s big, which is part and parcel of the optical illusion virtual reality delivers.
“Together with Samsung, we’ve redefined virtual reality and created the best mobile VR experience available today,” said Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus.
“On Gear VR, people are playing immersive VR games with friends, sharing 360 video experiences, and teleporting around the world with photos and videos – and it’s only the beginning for what’s possible with mobile VR.”
Over in America, Samsung has announced that the commercial release of the Gear VR will actually be available later this year for an expected price of $99. Locally, Samsung has been a little quiet, however we have asked Samsung’s local people for a comment, and will get this to you when they get back to us. If the dollar holds solid, however, we should see this for around $150-200, which would be a nice drop from the $249 to $299 Australians have seen previously.