Just in time for holiday shopping season, Samsung Electronics is hoping to turn virtual reality (VR) into actual reality with its Gear VR platform. The VR system (pictured), which had been available for pre-order, is now on store shelves and deliveries based on those pre-orders are already beginning.
The headset requires the Galaxy Note5, Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, Galaxy S6 or Galaxy S6 Edge to work, and it will set a user back about $100. Created in collaboration with Facebook’s Oculus division, the Gear VR represents the first truly virtual reality system available to consumers, according to the company.
However, the Gear VR is not quite a fully formed VR platform, at least when compared to the Oculus Rift, coming next year, which will plug into a PC for better video and processing power.
Microsoft’s HoloLens and Sony’s PlayStation VR, however, are set to offer higher-end experiences, according to the companies. Microsoft is already calling for developers to help design professional applications for their devices. Still, Samsung’s Gear VR will give consumers their first taste of the promise of VR systems.
Movies and Games
Samsung is primarily focusing on entertainment with its first VR device, pitching the Gear VR as a way to play video games and watch movies through more immersive experiences. Users will be able to buy traditional, two-dimensional movies and TV shows for viewing on the VR system directly through an application called Oculus Cinema.
The company is also offering content specifically designed to be viewed in a VR environment, such as videos in 360 degrees and live performances, through an app called Samsung Milk VR. Netflix is also providing an app that will let users download content directly to the platform.
Beyond TV and movies, the Gear VR's big selling point seems to be its promise of full virtual reality gaming. The Gear VR reacts to the movement of a user's head, which the company said gives the gaming experience a more natural, immersive feel. Still, the selection remains pretty sparse at the moment with Samsung boasting of having “dozens” of games available through the Oculus Store.
Not Quite ‘Lawnmower Man’
The system features a USB port to connect a Samsung mobile device, with an adjustment wheel on the top of the housing to control the focus. A touchpad on the side of the headset allows users to navigate through the interfaces. If users want sound, though, they’ll have to bring their own headsets and plug them directly into their smartphones.
And, unlike the sci-fi gloves worn by characters in VR movies from the 1990s, the Gear VR doesn’t come with anything quite so far out. If users want to actually move, shoot, or jump in any of the games the Gear VR plays, they’ll have to shell out for game controllers, too.
While the Gear VR is probably a far cry from the more powerful platforms that will likely be available in another year or two, it looks like a good way for users with Samsung smartphones to dip their toes into the VR experience to see what it’s all about.
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