Samsung has just announced it’s entry into the VR headset market the Gear VR, to coincide with the Samsung Note 4 release. Once you dig a little below the surface of launch hype and hired celebrities performing amazement, you discover it’s just a Note 4 in a plastic case. You then have to ask yourself, what have they really just launched!
Yes, it looks nice and yes it appears to be a proper VR headset, but it’s really just a the same as Google Cardboard. It’s comfier and won’t show sweat, grease and makeup stains as with cardboard, but it’s just slotting a mobile phone in front of two lenses.
Ok, there are a few nice extra’s, like video pass through, so you can hold the back button to get temporary vision through the rear facing camera, and you can simulate screen clicks by positioning a reticle on an interactive time and tapping a touchpad on the side of the unit. But far more bizarrely the Gear VR has a volume control, accelerometer and a gyrometer, magnetic and proximity sensors, all these will be in the phone???
So why have Samsung, or more importantly why have Oculus worked for an alledged 1.5 years of developing a set of ski googgles with a touchpad, button and USB port? Well it is a nicer option than Google Cardboard, but you have to use a Samsung Note 4 with it, nothing else. You can use a whole range of devices with Cardboard and the software is the same type as used in the Android Cardboard project, so I am not even sure what Oculus have done other than create some VR environments. In fact with some bits of plastic, super glue you can replicate the 1.5 years work in a week or so….
Maybe the Gear VR is just a hype tool for Samsung to promote the Note 4, maybe there is something in the deal for Oculus to use the Note 3 screen in the Rift DK2, but really if the likes of Samsung pairs with the Oculus team for 1.5 years you’d expect a bit more than this.
If the phone used a pair of rear facing camera’s to generate 3D vision and include an augmented overlay when using passthrough, if it included a Leap sensor to track hand interactions, then it would be making a step.
Engadet’s article is probably one of the most considered and less hype filled!