For those who have been waiting to put hands on the new Gear VR headset, the innovators edition was the only option until today, when the consumer version of Oculus’ collaboration with Samsung is finally available for purchase. The headset uses a Samsung Galaxy phone as the screen and motion-tracking sensor, which means it sells for just $99.
Oculus isn’t the first company to harness the power of the smartphone for a virtual reality experience. Notably, Google’s Cardboard VR can be built or purchased for less than $20. By lowering the cost of entry and making use of the smartphone that’s already in users pockets, rather than expect them to build or a buy a high-end gaming computer, the brand can spread VR into areas and with users who wouldn’t even consider it otherwise.
The big difference that Oculus and Samsung bring to the table is sophisticated content and a lot of experience developing proper sensor readings and responsiveness. There’s already a wealth of games, films, and even social applications built for the Samsung Gear VR project. That, plus the integration of Bluetooth controllers like the SteelSeries Stratus XL means that the Gear VR is already a well-supported and sophisticated platform.
Of course, the main course of the Oculus banquet is the Rift headset, which so far only has a vague release date of Q1 2016, and a rough price of at least $350, but will include an Xbox One controller with every headset. The Gear VR is more than an appetizer though, and as the platform continues to develop over the coming months, the value in a phone-based VR headset will continue to grow.