Samsung Gear VR headset: Better than Oculus?
Last weekend Hollywood, California hosted a Virtual Reality Conference dubbed Oculus Connect. This event was a developer conference that brought together the entire VR community from engineers, developers, and enthusiasts from all over the world to share and showcase the latest technology this industry has to offer. Oculus was the premier headliner, but many other VR companies had presentations during this two-day event. Samsung had a very impressive showing with their VR headset. Samsung announced that they were getting into the virtual reality business and quickly made a partner in Oculus VR. Both companies traded technology mutually benefitting each other’s progress in future development. From this agreement the Samsung Gear VR headset came into fruition.
Much like the Durovis Dive, the Gear VR headset uses your phone as the screen to create a portable virtual reality headset that rivals even its partner’s Oculus DK2. The current version of the Samsung’s headset uses the Galaxy Note 4 which conveniently pops directly into the front of the headset with ease. A controller is still needed to play most games and launch new games etc. However, an exciting feature included on Samsung’s device is the addition of basic controls on the headset. Previously when using the DK2 if you wanted to launch a new application or make even minor adjustments the headset has to come off so you are able to change settings on your PC. With the basic controls provided on the Samsung Gear VR headset, navigation and basic functions are easy and don’t require you to step out of the virtual realm. There is a touchpad on the side of the headset, a back button, and a rocker to control the volume.
Gear VR also included the first real look at the new Oculus Store, titled Oculus Home. Its format is very similar to that of the Xbox One with live tiles that are controlled by the headset controls. Or if you don’t feel like using the touchpad you can simply aim your head at the game or demo you want to play and tap enter. Included in the store is an app called Oculus Cinema. This gives you the ability to watch 3D movies in an actual movie theatre or even on the moon with the Earth orbiting around you while the movie plays. It is an awesome app and combined with the lightweight headset the experience is better than going to the actual movie theatre and wearing those terrible 3D glasses.
One of the biggest issues with VR technology is the possibility of extended use without disorientation or nausea. When seeing virtual technology everyone has the same question. “When is Call of Duty coming out?” While this is the dream and the guaranteed future, the technology is currently not there yet. Major tweaks and upgrades need to be implemented before this can be a reality. But the Samsung Gear VR headset is definitely a step in the right direction. Many users at the conference were able to use the headset to watch movie trailers and play demos for close to an hour without any nausea. This is the future and what is needed to make virtual reality a viable peripheral in the commercial market. The only issue is that since the Galaxy Note 4 has no fan inside many times during the demo a warning came up stating that the phone was overheating. While it is true that these demos were running all day it still brings up the question of how many hours these headsets can be used without damaging the device. This is a serious concern since the retail of a Galaxy Note 4 is $699.99 and is quite an expensive accessory to replace if damaged. Hopefully Samsung has a plan for this overheating situation before the launch of this product.
Oculus VR didn’t have a bad conference by any means featuring many new demos including one that places you in the pilot seat of Jaeger from Pacific Rim allowing you to fight a Kaiju. Demos like this excite me because these are the games that I want to see more of when these headsets hit the commercial marketplace.
Due to Samsung and Oculus VR’s partnership there is a good chance that the consumer models of both headsets will take on a lot of similar design features before release. Both the Oculus DK2 and Samsung Gear VR headset had a great showing at the conference and many comparisons were made between the two. Ultimately these two companies are going to have a huge part in the future of VR technology and both products showcase their visions for the industry. After Oculus Connect there is no doubt that Samsung isn’t just dipping their toe into the market, but diving in head first. With the Gear VR being such a solid product, we can look for Samsung to be one of the top players in virtual reality when these headsets are finally released to the public.
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