Virtual reality enthusiasts can expect a full consumer version of the Samsung/Oculus Gear VR later this year, according to Oculus Chief Technology Officer John Carmack. Speaking at the Game Developers Conference that ran March 2-6 in San Francisco, Carmack announced that a market-ready edition of the mobile virtual reality headset would roll out with Samsung's next major product release.
Earlier this week, Samsung announced its new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones, as well as an updated version of the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition, which is powered by the platform developed by Oculus. The Gear VR Innovator Edition, essentially a developer kit version of the hardware, enables users to experience virtual reality viewing and gaming when a Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge is attached to the device.
First launched last September, the Gear VR Innovator also works with the Galaxy Note 4. The updated headset announced Wednesday was reduced in size by 15 percent to make it more comfortable to wear, and now features improved imaging and a USB power port for longer usage times.
Response 'Better than Expected'
During his keynote address at the GDC gathering, Carmack said a consumer version of the mobile Gear VR could have come out earlier, but Oculus wanted to proceed more cautiously than Samsung. He noted that the Innovator Edition ("Samsung doesn't do developer kits," he said) "seems to be pretty good (and) Samsung probably could have gone out and blitzed it."
However, by first releasing a more limited version targeted at developers, both Samsung and Oculus were able to gather more data and comments from early adopters that will help in creating an improved and consumer-ready product, Carmack said.
"We don't want horrible experiences and an 80-percent return rate," he said. Since the Innovator Edition first came out, though, "The response has been a lot better than almost anyone expected from this. The data we've been getting on this has been very, very good."
'I Want To See a Billion People in VRs'
Based on the response to the Innovator Edition, Carmack said, Oculus and Samsung are preparing to launch a consumer version as part of Samsung's next major product release cycle. As Samsung has just made a big announcement about the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones, its next major release is expected in the fall.
That, Carmack said, is when "Oculus goes big, full consumer."
In the interim, Oculus will continue working to finalize its software, content and platform infrastructure, Carmack said, adding that these challenges will be made easier thanks to the company's connection to Facebook, which acquired Oculus for $2 billion last year. Virtual reality developers, meanwhile, should take the opportunity over the next several months to create applications that will be ready to run on the system when the consumer Gear VR comes out, he added.
"We've got a plan now, we've got a date -- Oculus is going for it as hard as we can," Carmack said. With the next Gear VR, "We're trying to sell as many units as possible."
"I want to see a billion people in VRs," he said.