Samsung and Oculus’ brain-child, the Gear VR, is now available for 100$! Being an upgrade of the prototype “Innovator Edition” released back in 2014, what does it offer to the Virtual Reality world and it’s increasingly demanding public?
Gear VR is the first virtual reality headset designed for mass production – or at least, the first refined and fully functional one. Clocking at 100$, it combines its own power with that of your phone to create the gaming experience, which comes with its own pros and cons.
Namely, it needs your phone to work.
The device is compatible with Samsung’s Note 5 and S6 in its regular, Edge and Edge Plus presentations. By jacking your Smartphone inside the device, Gear VR is able to use the phone’s processing power for the game and software, while the machine itself contains the motion sensors that sends the signals to your phone, and the optical lens that converts the image on your phone’s screen into virtual worlds.
This is important because, by leaving the hard work (and camera) to the Smartphone’s sophisticated chipset and screen, Gear VR’s hardware becomes much smaller, lighter (remember this goes strapped to your head, for longs times ideally) and cheaper (that’s why it’s 100$ lower than its previous incarnation).
On the other hand, you need the listed phones (Note 5, S6/Edge/Edge Plus) to use it (for now). In order to maintain consistency when developing the hardware (and the games and apps designed for it), Samsung will only allow the most recent phones to work with the Gear VR – so, in practice, it’s a 100$ buy only if you already own at least a 500$+ device… so, yeah.
In exchange, you can rest well knowing that programmers, game designers and the like know full well the platform they are working in and can utilize it to their full potential, so you do get what you are paying for.
This detail sets it apart from Google’s Cardboard, which compromises even more by leaving the motion-sensoring work to your phone with the upsides of a reduced price (only 20$) and being compatible with most recent and not-that-recent Android devices (along looking awesome).
This exchange of power for availability does leave its mark, as Cardboard depends fully on your probably-not-suited-for-the-job phone, which for short, can cause lagging that, since we are talking about VR, will likely cause you nausea or even vomits if experienced for long periods.
Back to Gear VR, user reports tell that while the Samsung Gear VR software it’s easy to install and navigation is comfortable, setting up the physical device can get tricky, with some adjustments required to fit different-sized phones, strapping, and to calibrate the graphics to their full resolution. This is mostly a one-time inconvenience, though.
All in all, this is an excellent welcoming card for people new to virtual reality and a big bone for VR enthusiasts. Only time will tell if Gear VR will hold its ground against the (still on the works) Steam’s HTC Vive, Playstation VR and Oculus Rift itself.