You would somewhat have to be hiding under a rock to not know by now that Samsung finally released their Gear VR headset, to what seems to be a very willing public. There are articles everywhere of people being amazed, places selling out and all kinds of good things happening. Without a doubt, a huge company like Samsung releasing something solid for VR can only be a good thing for the industry.
Of course Google has the Cardboard VR “device”, and YouTube is hard at work at making their videos “Cardboard Ready”, it’s just a holder with lens to remove the distortion applied. Gear VR is an actual device that accepts another device to create a cooler device. It’s clean and easy to use and has external controls. Google’s Cardboard is a joke in comparison, but at least it’s the barebones intro into VR and definitely helped push the industry forward.
The biggest problem that Gear VR has is that it only works for a few select Samsung devices. Being that a decent amount of the North American population is on iOS or some other Android phone, it’s not accessible. While obviously it’s in Samsung’s best interests to create a device that only worked with their phones, I look forward to seeing something that can accommodate others that isn’t made out of paper.
More interestingly about all this though is the implications of such easy and accessible VR experiences will have on the Oculus Rift. The Rift has not been released yet and isn’t slated for it until early of 2016. Easily 2 to 3 months after Gear VR. The Rift has far more stringent requirements, being tethered is the most limiting obviously as it removes all ability to be mobile. This is where Gear VR will have a huge advantage. On the other hand, the Rift will have all the power it ever needs on hand as it uses the computer’s graphics card to render the images shown, which means you can do an awful lot more.
With Gear VR out now, we will be able to gauge the interest people have in VR and what kind of experiences people like and don’t like. I would imagine that motion sickness is going to be a high priority as many people are prone to it and in turn the technology and best practices for creating games and apps will become better, smarter and more accommodating. Tricks and cheats and manipulations of movement will be discovered, no different than is done now in the movie industry as they continue to forge their way through for 3D movies.
With a readily available mobile platform for VR, it’s also going to be interesting to see how it affects sales of the Rift as people somewhat reel at the relatively high price. Right now the Gear is $100, if you already have a device. Add another $200 maybe if you change phones and go on contract, or possibly free as phones tend to get when some newer model comes out. Game and app companies are likely to come out with all kinds of cool games and experiences that some may think they don’t need the Rift for, and not find it worth the money for it.
I’ve seen quite a few articles stating the demise of the Rift for many reasons, the Gear VR coming out being one of them. I don’t see that though. I see them living in their own worlds with some crossover. It would be like saying XBox consoles will never sell because Nintendo created a new Wii. Different caliber of system and different needs met. Each will find their own area within VR and in turn both will help each other as this is a brand new world. The technology and techniques for building these experiences are still being discovered and understood. It’s like the wild west right now as each developer and company out there tries to find a way to be relevant. Which is hard to do as there are no precedents for building and using this type of technology.
Either way, in the end the Gear VR is going to be amazing to watch grow and what people do with it. The Rift will be better for it and it will be interesting to see how Facebook markets it to the masses with the mobile VR world already being established. We are at the beginning of an amazing technology and the birth of another generation of gamers and app builders and users.