Samsung Gear VR – ready for the masses?

I recently had the chance to get my hands on the latest Samsung Galaxy s7 and s7 Edge along with the GearVR that partners with these phones. People are reviewing the phones as the best yet. I was more interested in the GearVR.

Recent work between Oculus, Facebook and Samsung has aimed the VR experience squarely at the consumer market and I predict that this is the tipping point that will see VR accepted as a medium in the very near future. With Facebook now able to store and deliver immersive 360 degree videos on the site, access to user generated content at unprecedented levels is a reality.

I have used VR many times over the years. From the clunky VFX1 headset back in the late 90’s to the first GearVR from 2014, the SonyVR and the Oculus Rift. I have had the feeling that the technology has been exclusively for the enthusiast willing to deal with the cumbersome cables and other restrictions that come with getting your feet wet in new technology but Samsung has leveraged the impressive power of the new Galaxy series of flagship phones to drive GearVR directly into the hands of the consumer.

hqdefaultI started off with a simple VR experience of Jurassic World where I watched a massive dinosaur wake up, lumber towards me and lean in to my face and sniff me. I will admit it, I ducked knowing full well that this was not real. The picture was that clear thanks to the adjustable optics that the computer generated scenery was flawlessly animated on the smart phones display. Adding good quality headphones in the phones audio socket would have completed the experience.

Next step was to see how one of my passions looked on VR. Surfing.
Screen-Shot-2015-10-29-at-2.59.47-PM-1024x586I have long admired the beautiful but deadly Fijian break of Teahupoo “The name in local tongue translated to broken skull.” but I seriously lack the fitness and skill to take on such a legendary wave so when this popped up in the catalog, I told my product guide to hold everything and let me take this little trip.
Again, a flawless picture came into view and I was being towed behind a jetski into a blue-green monster of a wave. Turning to look behind me, above me to the pitching lip and then down the line of the wave I realised that I had twisted into something similar to my surfing stance on the swivel chair. For a moment I forgot that this was not real and had to explain this to the people standing around me as I gaped and twisted in the busy store.
The picture started to blur as the lenses fogged up. I was actually starting to sweat with this thing on my face. I made a note that some kind of ventilation would be a plus for when the user gets totally immersed in something they really enjoy.

After this I took a look at Netflix in a virtual home theatre and used the position of my head to navigate the familiar menus and with a touch to the side of the GearVR, I was watching a movie complete with coffee table in front of me and remote control sitting next to me on the couch.

Finally the Samsung specialist decided I was ready for something from under the counter. Some content that is not available on the Aussie market yet.
Screen-Shot-2015-10-29-at-2.59.47-PM-1024x586A ride on the Tatsu roller coaster at the Six Flags theme park in the good old USA. I have heard about this park and always wanted to visit one day so I strapped the GearVR to my face again and waited to experience the ride ahead. It was a ride similar to the Superman ride where you are strapped into a seat that is pitched so far forward you feel like you are flying headfirst through the air with arms and legs dangling free. I could look all around me and I found myself craning my neck to take in as much as possible and try to keep a bead on where I was going. It was certainly as far as VR experiences go, pretty intense.
I very rarely get motion sickness using VR, riding rollercoasters or spending weeks at sea so when I started to feel woozy just a couple of minutes in to the experience I was convinced that this was delivering a pretty convincing sensation of movement just through my eyes. I even gripped the arms of my chair to steady myself even though I was going nowhere.
When the ride was over I removed the GearVR and sat there with my head swimming and blinking hard to get the fog of disorientation to lift while I chatted with my handler about what this means for the new technology. See the video below as I get messed with by the rollercoaster that was not there.

The effects that the last video had on me compared to the first two is testament to the technology and its ability to deliver extremely sharp head tracking and a crystal clear picture making for very realistic VR. I am pleased to say that VR has finally come of age and this simple to use system delivers to anyone ready to take the plunge with nothing more than a new smartphone and an additional AUD$159 to buy the headset.

The phones almost overshadowed by the VR demonstration were no slouch either. Waterproof, great looking, big batteries, expandable memory and blue tick certification on Telstra’s mobile network will certainly warrant a closer look very soon.

Packaged with GearVR, the new Galaxy handsets have a really good shot at dominating over the next 12 months provided great quality content is made available.
After what I have seen, I do not think that will be a problem.

The Gear VR headset is available from Telstra for $159 or $5 per month over 24 months with $39 upfront payment on a Go Mobile Plan (limited stock at launch). Both smartphones will be available in Black, Silver and Gold on a range Go Mobile Plans including:

Samsung Galaxy S7 32GB: $99/month on a $95 Go Mobile Plan with $4/mth handset repayments when customers stay connected for 24 months and 6GB of total data inclusions to use in Australia (min cost $2376), Extra Mobile Data $10/GB automatically added in 1GB blocks to use that month, 2 min standard call $2) .

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 32GB: $105/month on a $95 Go Mobile Plan with $10/mth handset repayments when customers stay connected for 24 months and 6GB of total data inclusions to use in Australia (min cost $2520), Extra Mobile Data $10/GB automatically added in 1GB blocks to use that month, 2 min standard call $2) .

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