If gaming hasn’t convinced you that virtual reality is coming back, Samsung might be able to do that for you, and if you currently own either an S6 or S6 Edge, you might even be one of the first to experience consumer-ready VR.
Avid readers of GadgetGuy will know that we’re fans of virtual reality, and have been ever since journalists like this one were kids. Oh sure, this wasn’t a website back then — hey, there weren’t even websites back then! — but the idea of virtual reality was one that was and still is truly intriguing.
While video games offer a modest amount of immersion, with you facing a TV or computer screen and watching and playing from a couch or chair, virtual reality relies on a screen pressed up to your eyes and a motion sensor to let you move your head and change your position inside the digital world. That screen becomes your eyes, and you are essentially inside of another world, be it one made from video or one made from a digital app or game based environment.
Virtual reality pioneers Oculus have certainly been doing a lot to bring this world to life, and we saw the results of Samsung’s first collaboration with Oculus last year in the excellent and innovative Gear VR, a virtual reality headset that relied on a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 to work.
That sort of hardware requirement is a bit of a tricky one, though, because you need to have that Samsung phone in order to make the headset work, and what happens if you don’t want the Note 4 because it’s too big for you, or you don’t want it for another reason?
What if you have another phone, like the Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge?
If that’s where you’re standing right now, Samsung is looking squarely at you with the release of the Gear VR Innovator Edition for the S6 and S6 Edge.
The device is a little different from what we saw in the first Gear VR, with a smaller casing in the back and redesigned dock built to take the 5.1 inch S6 and S6 Edge instead of the 5.7 inch Galaxy Note 4.
This drop in size means the whole headset gets a little smaller, a reduction of 15% we’re told, which should also reflect weight and comfort over time, improving both.
Gear VR does still rely on the same type of technology, however, using the phone as the screen and processing environment, and making sure that the 1440p (2560×1440) display Samsung uses can be split up into two 1280×720 screens, with one for each eye.
An app will still be installed on the app allowing you to access content made for the Oculus system, which right now includes “experience” videos, games, and even the ability to sit inside your own virtual cinema and watch movies downloaded to your device.
One new feature has popped up and that’s a microUSB port in the headset itself, allowing you to keep the phone charged when it’s plugged into the Gear VR, something the first generation headset made for the Note 4 lacked.
“We are committed to innovation that meets the rapidly evolving demands of consumers, and will continue to provide a truly amazing virtual reality experience for everyone to enjoy,” said Prasad Gokhale, Vice President of IT and Mobile at Samsung Electronics Australia.
“Virtual reality is considered by many to be the next step in interactive entertainment and this new version of the Gear VR will allow even more Australians the ability to immerse themselves in an exciting virtual reality environment.”
There’s one thing we are curious about, however, and that’s storage.
With the previous incarnation of the Gear VR with Galaxy Note 4, Oculus provided a 16GB microSD with movies and games preloaded to give you a sampling of what was on offer, with more available later on from the Oculus store. That was fine since the Note 4 featured a microSD slot, but the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are different beasts altogether.
In fact, the S6 and S6 Edge are so different that neither includes a microSD slot, offering only fixed memory from the beginning.
That means if you bought a 32GB phone, you have that amount of storage — less, actually — for photos, videos, apps, music, and games, as well as the stuff the Gear VR needs for storage. People with a 64GB or 128GB phone will likely have a better time with more storage, but those with a 32GB phone are definitely going to have an interesting time finding ways to clear space for the content the Gear VR uses, and from what we’ve seen on the Note 4, these apps and experiences aren’t exactly small.
As such, we’re checking with Samsung to find out if there’s an option or some form of support being offered for people in these situations. Perhaps there’s a microSD slot in the headset that no one is telling us about, or perhaps it’s something different altogether. We’ll let you know when Samsung lets us know.
Until then, however, owners of the S6 and S6 Edge will find the new Gear VR made for their phones available in Samsung stores from June 18 with a recommended retail price of $299 (and no, that doesn’t include the phone).