Mobile virtual reality is now an actual reality. Samsung announced the Gear VR during its IFA 2014 presentation, an untethered virtual reality headset with a removable front plate that conceals and protects the housing for a Galaxy Note 4. Samsung’s newly announced smartphone provides the “brains” for the headset, with a little help from the Oculus Mobile SDK. Samsung is partnered with the Rift developer on the Gear VR, with CTO John Carmack and the Oculus mobile team having spent the past 12 months developing software to support mobile VR experiences.
Hands on video
Termed as an “add-on” for the Note 4, Gear VR uses the mobile device’s CPU and GPU to power a Quad HD 5.7-inch Super AMOLED screen (1440p). The inside of the headset offers a 96-degree viewing angle — the equivalent of standing six feet away from a 175-inch screen, Samsung says — and adjustable interior eyepieces to accommodate glasses wearers. The Gear VR Innovator’s Edition, which Samsung notes is intended for “innovative consumers, specifically VR enthusiasts, developers, mobile experts and professionals, and early technology adopters” also includes a packed in 16GB MicroSD card that’s got specially formatted 360-degree movie trailers and videos.
On the apps side, Samsung’s press release identifies a handful of specifics: A tour of Tony Starks lab in Avengers Tower, to promote Avengers: Age of Ultron; samples of IMAX video; a Pacific Rim Jaeger pilot experience, specifically designed for VR; a Cirque du Soleil VR experience; access to Vevo videos for viewing inside of a VR-style movie theater; M-GO advanced for search and discovery of VR apps; Protocol Zero, a game from DeNA; and a Qualcomm-branded VR experience, called Vuforia.
In addition, the headset also sports a collection of media apps from Oculus for viewing videos and basic interface features. Oculus Home sounds like it amounts to a dashboard; it’s what you’ll use to access the Oculus Store, where you can download and launch VR content. Oculus Cinema is a virtual movie theater that offers 2D and 3D video playback “in a variety of theater environments.” Finally, Oculus 360 Videos and Oculus 360 Photos offer virtual reality takes on their respective media playback focuses.
Here’s John Carmack with an official statement on Gear VR:
The magic of a completely portable and wireless VR headset is easy to underestimate until you have experienced it. We don’t have the raw horsepower of a high end gaming PC (yet), but there are valuable compensations that make it a very interesting trade off, and many developers will thrive on the platform, especially as it improves at the rapid pace of the mobile ecosystem.
At it’s very core, virtual reality is about being freed from the limitations of actual reality. Carrying your virtual reality with you, and being able to jump into it whenever and wherever you want qualitatively changes the experience for the better.
Experiencing mobile VR is like when you first tried a decent desktop VR experience — There is a sense that you are glimpsing something from the future. This is science fiction made real, and it’s only just the beginning.
There’s no official release date yet for the Gear VR (or the Galaxy Note), but Samsung confirms that it will arrive in fall 2014.