Virtual reality was once a futuristic arcade experience that interested few, but with the emergence of the Samsung Gear VR, has that changed?
Virtual reality – The next platform
The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge might not look hugely different from it predecessor, but the handset has seen an approximate 250% increase in sales. Samsung have successfully refined what was a popular handset into one of the best in the world. At the annual Samsung Unpacked event, the South Korean manufacturer went beyond introducing the world to the latest flagship handsets. In a guest appearance, Mark Zuckerberg went into detail surrounding his believe that virtual reality is the next platform, while announcing free Samsung Gear VR headsets for Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge pre-order customers.
Defining virtual reality as the next platform was promote the partnership between Samsung and Facebook, the latter also owning Oculus, part of the team behind the Samsung Gear VR. Combined with the Samsung Gear 360, a virtual reality camera, Samsung, Facebook and Oculus have indeed created an attractive platform. What completes the successful foundations upon which this platform is built upon is the consumer friendly Samsung Gear VR.
Samsung Gear VR – The positives
What struck me about the Samsung Gear VR is the premium quality of the device itself and the experience it delivers. The device itself is extremely comfortable to wear owing to a nice foam surround and multiple pointed head strap. There is no light leak that I’ve experienced yet, likely down to the fact this is designed to fit particular handsets. Light leak can destroy a VR experience and is literally when light enters the device through some sort of gap.
There are plenty of intelligent features which add to the experience, including a micro USB port to charge your device while in use and a touch pad which is near your right temple. The touch pad will feel a little unnatural to begin with, but will become second nature.
Finally, there is a space for you to plug in headphones and go completely immersive.
This is where the Samsung Gear VR dominates. The overall experience is amazing. If you pop on headphones, you are practically guaranteed to get completely lost in whatever world you choose to explore. We have one top tip for testing how immersive an experience is. Wave your hand in front of your face when wearing the Gear VR and gauge just how weird it is you cannot see your hand.
When looking around, the Gear VR uses the sensors within your Samsung handset to move your view within the virtual world. Certain apps will let you make choices by starting at something long enough, while others require input from either the touch pad or an additional controller (sold separately).
Straight to the point on this one. Samsung have created what is an extremely affordable virtual reality solution. At just €99, users of select Samsung devices can enjoy a completely immersive virtual reality experience. Once you have paid for the headset, you can enjoy virtual reality without any additional cost (though there are premium apps).
The idea here is that the most expensive part of the virtual reality experience is the computing and display source. By utilising smartphones such as the Galaxy and Note range, Samsung and Oculus have overcome the biggest obstacle to adoption; cost.
Samsung Gear VR – The negatives
If you are an iPhone user or one of the devices not listed on the Samsung site, you can’t use the Gear VR. It’s specifically designed to work with a select list of handsets. There are other solutions on the market, but this divide between Oculus powered apps and non-Oculus apps is likely to require overcoming before virtual reality can take another step forward.
Oculus Store is not cheap
While the apps in the Oculus Store are brilliant and largely of immense quality, they come at a price. Save for the few freebies (with Sisters being perhaps the most fun), some of the most popular apps cost between €2.99 and €9.99, meaning you can run up a bill pretty quick.
They can fog up and you might need a controller
The Gear VR headset has fogged up a few times we’ve used it. This can effectively ruin the experience. Certain games will require a controller too. The reason we put these two things together is that you can overcome these problems with two simple purchases. Cat Crap is a great anti-fog spray you can order via Amazon UK. The latter problem can be solved by ordering yourself a wireless controller for Android, also available on Amazon UK – read our guide to ordering from Amazon UK).
Samsung Gear VR – the verdict
Samsung could have gotten away with charging €150 for the Gear VR and still had everybody recommend it as being great value. The fact they didn’t, shows how serious they are about getting one of these devices into every compatible phone users home. The quality of the device and the overall experience make this one of the best purchases you will make. Don’t think this is just for tech heads either. Anyone who has one of the compatible devices needs to get one of these headsets and play around with it.