At Britelite we are always on the lookout for new and deployable virtual reality options that can be used to bring our customers ideas to life. Often, clients want to do VR setups, but are hindered by the wires and computing requirements of the system. Lofty goals can become a development nightmare when trying to make an easy, compact and mobile VR system.
Well Samsung has thrown their hat into the ring with a new set of VR headsets to compete with the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, Sony and others. It is a revolutionary take on the Google Cardboard idea and a more expensive, but better executed option. We think that the Gear VR has a lot of potential, so we took ours out with a Galaxy S6 edge to see what it could do….
Samsung does VR
First thing to realize about this headset is that it makes you look hilarious if you wear it without the phone, which is good because the setup took about 20 minutes and we had a way to amuse ourselves until it was ready. Once we got the phone updated and all the software installed I clicked my phone into the headset and got ready to see what the good people at Samsung had in store for me.
A solid answer to the Oculus Rift
I immediately noticed that the head tracking on this unit was impeccable. I have had a lot of experience with the Oculus Rift and I have to say that the Gear VR blows it away in terms of head tracking. That is not to say that the Oculus Rift tracking is bad, but the Gear VR tracking is flawless, it actually helps you to get immersed.
Exploring the Samsung Store
When you start the experience on the headset it places you in a virtual living room with a floating menu screen in front of you. I am not sure what the VR communities’ fascination is with virtual screen viewing, but this is not the last we will see of it in the Gear. Once I settled into my virtual living room, I took a look at what the Samsung store had available. As with any new technology the pickings were a little slim at the time of writing, but I have noticed new things popping up almost daily, so that bodes well for the availability of content. I browsed the store and downloaded some things that looked interesting. Most of the available content is short form or demo state experiences, which I thought worked pretty well for this technology. There were short 360 scenes from the crew of Avengers and Jurassic World, as well as some nice 360 animations and game demos. One feature that I thought was a little strange is the ability to watch 2D videos in a virtual 3D theater. I am not sure why this would be appealing, but it is also a feature in the Microsoft Hololens so somebody thinks it is cool.
Once I really got into the content I noticed two things, the head tracking is really fantastic, and the resolution is not up to what Oculus is delivering on their headset. The resolution was not so low as to be a problem, but the difference was notable when viewing high quality content like the Jaunt VR Paul McCartney video. That being said, the experiences were on the whole well executed and were visually pleasing, if not always stunning.
Developers and Beyond
Well it is a neat piece of hardware. While it has some drawbacks, it has one feature that makes it very compelling – It is wireless. You can spin around in the virtual and physical world like you are playing the Sound Of Music experience and there are no wires to tie you up. This rather revolutionary feature really suggests some cool implementation of this device. You can finally walk around a 3d model of your house, IN your house. How is that for immersive.
There are a lot of things that can be done with VR headsets and the Samsung Gear VR has a seat among the winners circle. Much of the content available is well done and compelling, while the options for developers means that some revolutionary things should be coming down the pipe soon. This coupled with the very reasonable entry cost and you have a really nice offering from Samsung. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for this little device. Check back next week for our review of the Microsoft Hololens demo event in Seattle. Stay virtual my friends.