A month ago, Engadget exclusively reported on Samsung’s upcoming VR device, which is being developed in collaboration with Facebook’s Oculus VR. Today, we can confirm that Samsung is indeed working on a virtual reality device, and it’s called the “Gear VR”. Samsung will be announcing the device, alongside the Galaxy Note 4, at IFA 2014.
Instead of making a completely standalone virtual reality headset, Samsung has developed a modular design, which allows the user to dock in a Galaxy device into the Gear VR using USB 3.0. Virtual reality effect is achieved through head tracking, and instead of equipping the headset with sensors, Gear VR makes use of the smartphone’s accelerometer, gyroscope and processing power to track head motion. Also, as Samsung’s flagship devices use AMOLED display technology, we can surely say that users will have an excellent, flawless and immersive virtual reality experience.
In theory, this design should allow Samsung to massively cut down manufacturing costs and introduce the headset at a low cost. However, it’s Samsung, and Samsung usually doesn’t like to equip its first product in a new product category with an inexpensive price tag. You might say that this is exactly like Google’s Cardboard VR headset, which was handed out to I/O 14 attendees, and you would be right! The main concept behind Gear VR is the same. However, the Gear VR is much more comfortable to wear, thanks to the elastic head band and soft padded cushions on each side of the device, and Samsung’s implementation is also much better than that of Google’s Cardboard.
On the right side of the Gear VR, there is a see-through button, which uses the smartphone’s rear-facing camera sensor to supply the user with a video feed of the real outside world – this way the user won’t need to remove and wear the headset again and again, which will make the overall experience of wearing the headset easier than alternatives from Oculus or Sony. There is also a touchpad located directly under the see-through button, which will allow users to navigate through the user interface on the Galaxy smartphone.
The hardware of the device is being developed by Samsung alone, but the software is being developed in cooperation with Oculus VR, makers of the Oculus Rift VR headset for gaming. Samsung will be dedicating an entire section of Samsung Apps for Gear VR, just like it did with its Gear smartwatches. Initially, apps like Theatre, 360 Player, and Gallery will be made available, and Samsung will also be making the Gear VR’s SDK available to developers shortly after the announcement.