Virtual reality as a concept, has probably been around for centuries. On some level, it has always been somewhere lodged in our brains. If drugs, alcohol or adrenaline rushes teach us anything, is that it’s in our nature to look for alternate feelings and realities. Call it curiosity, or just desire for escapism, the search for a virtual reality has always been in our DNA.
The idea that lead to the first recorded researches in the VR field, originated in the fifties, from the mind of a cinematographer. Morton Heiling wanted to enhance the movie experience, so in the early sixties he came up with Sensorama – a single user console meant to change the way we watched movies, through odor effects, stereo speakers, a moving chair and a stereoscopic display. It wasn’t the right time for Heiling’s inventions yet, but some of his works helped achieve the breakthroughs that lead to VR tech becoming useful, mostly for military simulators, until recent years.
Two years ago, Oculus Rift was launched on Kickstarter, and thus announced the beginning of mainstream VR sets. Palmer Luckey, the passionate tech geek that somewhat started the VR revolution, fell in love with this field while collecting vintage virtual reality headsets. The market thirsted for such a product, hence the incredible ascension of Oculus Rift. The goal of the campaign on Kickstarter was quite modest by today’s standards: $250,000. In three days, the campaign raised over 1 million dollars. The age of the virtual sets had begun.
Either because they were not affordable enough, or just not satisfying enough, VR sets haven’t really gone mainstream yet. Enter Samsung Gear VR. Created in partnership with Oculus, the new set brings hundreds of new content options and a better, more enjoyable user experience. With overall weight reduced significantly, and a touchpad redesigned to be more user-friendly, this collaboration has consumer-ready written all over it.
Announced on September 25th, the Gear VR is compatible with more multimedia content and more smartphones – Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge+, S6 and S6 edge. Each device’s display is used to provide the color, clarity and performance for the best virtual reality experience.
“Samsung has been at the forefront of delivering mobile experiences and ‘Gear VR Innovator Edition’ launched last year was no exception,” said JK Shin, CEO and President of IT & Mobile Division, Samsung Electronics. “We see virtual reality as the next computing platform, and we are thrilled to partner with Oculus on Gear VR to set the standard for mobile VR and bring this revolutionary product to consumers.”
It’s confirmed that customers that buy the headset will have access this fall to Netflix, Oculus Arcade – classic gaming, and Oculus Cinema – over 100 movies from Fox. Other apps will follow in the coming months, Twitch and Hulu being in the works right now. No comments were given yet about HBO.
About 22 percent lighter than its Innovator Edition predecessor, Gear VR includes new foam cushioning that makes the device much more enjoyable to wear. The touchpad has also been improved, providing greater control. The overall tactile experience is better, keeping the device firmly on the user’s head.
“Together with Samsung, we’ve redefined virtual reality and created the best mobile VR experience available today,” said Brendan Iribe, CEO, Oculus. “On Gear VR, people are playing immersive VR games with friends, sharing 360 video experiences, and teleporting around the world with photos and videos – and it’s only the beginning for what’s possible with mobile VR.”
Dimension: 196 x 107.9 x 82.9 mm
Sensor: Accelerator, Gyrometer, Proximity (Mount/Unmount Detection)
Field of View (FOV): 96 degree
IPD Coverage: 54 ~ 70 mm (Fixed Lenses)
Accessory: Replaceable Face Form, Carrying Pouch, Lens Cleaning Cloth
Color: Frost White
Connectivity: microUSB connection to the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge
Though not as versatile as the Oculus Rift, the Gear VR is more affordable, and unlike the Innovator Edition, it is compatible with more devices, basically all the 2015 Samsung smartphones. The fact that you can get it at just $99 starting this fall, means that Virtual Reality could finally be ready for mainstream, and that Samsung smartphone sales will probably go up. Although most sets still have pretty high prices, this collaboration between Samsung and Oculus encourages other developers to step up their game, and focus on more customer-affordable products.
Your mind makes it real
Virtual reality is truly a great achievement. Even the brightest minds couldn’t have envisioned such a frantic pace for technological evolution. But with all the advancements, the line between our physical and virtual lives becomes thinner and thinner. We are diving in new, spectacular worlds, but it’s important to keep in mind that virtual reality shouldn’t replace real life, regardless of how advanced it becomes.