Yesterday, Samsung announced its new $99 Gear VR headset and we were there at Oculus Connect developer conference to spend some hands-on time with Samsung’s latest virtual reality hardware. (Samsung was keen to specify that the unit we played with was a pre-production model.)
As mentioned during the announcement, the new hardware is designed to work with Samsung’s latest smartphone releases. There’s no setting for previous generation of hardware, such as the Note 4, but the headset can now be easily adjusted between the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge+/Note 5 handset sizes with a simple slider. The new headset still presses down on the cheeks at little, but overall it is lighter than previous models, which is a major improvement.
Software is the other half of the VR formula and video is a big part of the platform. We tried out Netflix’s VR streaming app, which sticks you in a virtual living room, and watching shows feels like you’re right at home watching TV. Twitch also has an app to watch live streams, which places you in a virtual theater setting and allows you to share the experience with friends through Oculus Social. Other viewers appear in the room as avatars sitting alongside you. You can hear what they’re saying and chat to them while watching the live stream. Other platforms should be able to offer a similar experience too.
On the gaming side of things, it’s pretty much what you would expect from a mobile platform, rather than the more performance demanding demos that are designed for consoles and PCs. So far we have seen mostly point and click type games, although the Samsung game controller does allow for a wider range of experiences.
There is a lot of potential here for some unique experiences and the $99 price tag helps to keep them accessible. What are your initial impressions about the new Gear VR?