Virtual Reality

How Samsung and Oculus can improve the Gear VR for its "full consumer" launch

How Samsung and Oculus can imp...
The Gear VR for S6 (shown) is the best virtual reality headset you can buy today, but how will the upcoming "full consumer" version move forward?
The Gear VR for S6 (shown) is the best virtual reality headset you can buy today, but how will the upcoming "full consumer" version move forward?
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Herobound, one of the big titles currently available for the Gear VR
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Herobound, one of the big titles currently available for the Gear VR
Lenses for the Galaxy S6 version of the Gear VR
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Lenses for the Galaxy S6 version of the Gear VR
The Gear VR Innovator Edition for S6 is just about consumer ready, so it will be interesting to see what's different in the first "real" consumer version
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The Gear VR Innovator Edition for S6 is just about consumer ready, so it will be interesting to see what's different in the first "real" consumer version
The Gear VR uses a Samsung phone for its display and processing power
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The Gear VR uses a Samsung phone for its display and processing power
Current front page of the Oculus Store
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Current front page of the Oculus Store
Our (exaggerated) simulation of how lens fog can take away from your VR experience
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Our (exaggerated) simulation of how lens fog can take away from your VR experience
Bundling the Samsung Gamepad with the consumer Gear VR would be a smart move
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Bundling the Samsung Gamepad with the consumer Gear VR would be a smart move
Will the Gear VR have built-in headphones, like on the consumer Oculus Rift (pictured)?
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Will the Gear VR have built-in headphones, like on the consumer Oculus Rift (pictured)?
If we get lucky, perhaps we'll see some AAA style games of Lucky's Tale caliber alongside the Gear VR launch
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If we get lucky, perhaps we'll see some AAA style games of Lucky's Tale caliber alongside the Gear VR launch
The Gear VR for S6 (shown) is the best virtual reality headset you can buy today, but how will the upcoming "full consumer" version move forward?
10/10
The Gear VR for S6 (shown) is the best virtual reality headset you can buy today, but how will the upcoming "full consumer" version move forward?
View gallery - 10 images

The first two Gear VRs are trying to straddle two sides of the fence: on one hand, they technically aren't full consumer products, branded instead as "Innovator Editions" for developers and early adopters. But on the other hand, the Gear VR has a paid app store, makes appearances in Samsung ads and is sold in Best Buy stores. What can Samsung and Oculus do to differentiate the upcoming "full consumer" version?

Oculus has said that we can expect this full consumer Gear VR later this year. That likely means its announcement will come at IFA, alongside the Galaxy Note 5. Some of the headset's upgrades will be tied to the phone that's powering it – and if that's the Note 5, then a larger screen would mean a wider field of view, while a sharper screen would mean even less of a screen door effect (visible pixels while moving your head around in the virtual world). It's already doing fine in those two categories, but improvements there wouldn't hurt.

As for the headset itself, a better lens fog fix is high on our wishlist. The Gear VR for S6 has a built-in fan that supposedly reduces fogging compared to the Note 4 version, but we found that it's still pretty problematic in this respect. Without using defogging agents designed for scuba masks, we still find lens fog to be distracting in the S6 version.

Our (exaggerated) simulation of how lens fog can take away from your VR experience
Our (exaggerated) simulation of how lens fog can take away from your VR experience

Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe told us at the Rift launch event that the consumer Oculus Rift doesn't fog up on him. And during our hands-on with the Rift at E3, we found that there was more of an opening at the bottom while wearing it: this lets in light if you're in a bright room, but it also appears to reduce – if not eliminate – lens fog. So perhaps a consumer Gear VR that doesn't hug so tightly against your face at the bottom would be all the lens fog fix Samsung and Oculus need.

If there's some kind of permanent chemical coating that could achieve the same end, then that would be even better. A tighter fit against the face means a more immersive experience even if you're using it in a well-lit room (that light coming in at the bottom took away from the sense of presence in our E3 Oculus Rift demo).

The Gear VR for S6 more or less solved the overheating problem in the Note 4 Gear VR, thanks to its built-in fan and (perhaps) some heat-producing or heat-conducting improvements in the GS6 itself (we can use the S6 Gear VR for an hour before getting an overheating message vs. about 20-30 minutes in the Note 4 model). But the consumer version could afford to take this even farther; there's really no place at all for overheating concerns of any kind in "full consumer" products.

Bundling the Samsung Gamepad with the consumer Gear VR would be a smart move
Bundling the Samsung Gamepad with the consumer Gear VR would be a smart move

A full consumer Gear VR could afford to have some kind of controller included. Samsung sells an Android gamepad (above) that it recommends for the Note 4 Gear VR, but it's only sold in Samsung's online store (we haven't seen it in any retail stores, or from anywhere but third-party sellers on Amazon). You can use third-party controllers that are cheaper (we've had no problem with a US$25 Moga controller), but bundling the Samsung gamepad would be a big step towards an all-inclusive experience.

It may be too tall an order for this first-generation version, but if Samsung could bundle or sell a compatible motion-based control that can deliver hand presence – similar to Oculus Touch – that would be huge. That's almost certainly not going to happen, though, as developers haven't had time to make Gear VR apps for any such controller. Maybe Oculus Touch will make its way to a second or third generation consumer Gear VR, a year or two from now, but the odds of seeing that in the first version are slim to none.

Will the Gear VR have built-in headphones, like on the consumer Oculus Rift (pictured)?
Will the Gear VR have built-in headphones, like on the consumer Oculus Rift (pictured)?

The other accessory you need to add to the Innovator Editions of the Gear VR is a pair of headphones or earbuds. You can always just use the buds that are bundled with your Samsung phone, but if Samsung could put some built-in headphones into the Gear VR– maybe even with positional sound, like in the Oculus Rift – that could make everything 100 percent self-contained. Headset, built-in audio, bundled controller. Everyone gets everything they need right in the box (well, except for the phone).

Speaking of phones, it will be interesting to see how the full consumer Gear VR handles that. Will it only be compatible with the new Galaxy Note, leaving owners of the Galaxy S6, GS6 edge and Note 4 to use their respective Innovator Editions? Or will Samsung sell different consumer versions for each of those phones? Or perhaps one headset that can adjust for all three?

From a marketing standpoint, it makes less sense to have your big consumer launch tied exclusively to the Note 5. The GS6 and Edge will almost certainly be more popular than Samsung's stylus-based phablet, so we'd imagine they'll be served somehow.

If we get lucky, perhaps we'll see some AAA style games of Lucky's Tale caliber alongside the Gear VR launch
If we get lucky, perhaps we'll see some AAA style games of Lucky's Tale caliber alongside the Gear VR launch

The Gear VR's Oculus Store is already in pretty good shape, content-wise – but that may end up being the biggest thing that differentiates the consumer version. Oculus and Samsung have been throwing money at smaller developers, encouraging them to create content – and we've already seen some impressive fruits from those seeds. But perhaps bigger developers are also cooking up some AAA type of mobile VR titles that could launch aside the headset? Herobound already falls into that category to some degree, but more titles closer to what we saw demoed on the Oculus Rift at E3 (with some graphical compromises for mobile, of course) could make the "real" Gear VR the must-have device Samsung wants it to be.

If you're a current Gear VR owner, let us know in the comments if we missed anything you'd like to see in the consumer edition later this year. And for more, you can read Gizmag's full review of the Gear VR for S6 and our hands-on with the consumer-facing Oculus Rift.

View gallery - 10 images
5 comments
DonGateley
Were it not for the fact that all Gear VR content is locked inside a toll based, curated, walled garden I'd probably have the S6 version now and I will never have one so long as they continue to obstruct what content can be used with it.
The strategy of Zuckerberg, et. al., is clear but I'm not the least interested in being constrained by it.
When independent developers can create and distribute content for it without needing an imprimatur from those currently controlling it or any communication with them at all then I get interested, real interested.
Excellency Neckbeard
Content is King. Let me play GTA: San Andreas on my Windows machine over the network and I'll get one of these instantly. Any AAA PC title playable over the network would make this an instant buy for a LOT of people.
VRKIWI
I'd like to add my observations to date......
Disclaimer :- I'm not a gamer.......
However, have always followed/used/been involved in, the lasted tech
I captured my first 360 x 360 degree photo with a Nikon 900 camera and fisheye lens back in July 1995, and have been shooting VR images ever since, but obviously until now, have been pushing them around on screens with a mouse
The new Gear VR for S6 has opened up a whole new world.......
Showing VR images I've captured to other people and clients, the looks on their faces is priceless......
However, the S6 VR could still do with some 'tweaks'
- I haven't had too many issues with fogging, but have had issues with peoples long eyelashes getting 'grease' on the lenses
- I find the headband generally comfortable, but the Velcro adjusters pretty crap, especially if trying to fit it to people with large heads Headband upgrade is a must in my book.....
- Things get 'interesting' if someone phones when you're using your phone in the VR headset, having to quickly get it off your head and disengage the phone to answer before they hang up
- It's VERY frustrating to have to disengage the phone lock screen to use it. Maybe a firmware update that automatically disengages LS when you attach the VR headset to the phone
I've had Gear VR for S6 for 3 weeks now and am generally VERY happy with the purchase although agree with most of the points in the article above
Synchro
I tried out a Gear VR yesterday. I was struck by several things:
The tracking is really excellent - fast, smooth, stable Field of view is pretty small Image quality is verging on terrible
The graphics were really poor quality - I don't know if it was just the particular content that was shown (it was a non-interactive surround movie of some circus performers), but the graphics were really rough, pixelated and chunky. The limited field of view really limited the sensation of immersion. The superb tracking and smoothness of the delivery made up for quite a bit, but it really looked like a proof of concept rather than a real product.
AnthonyAlanPhares
Gear VR needs to incorporate the vives lighthouse technology as seen at Siggraph for full positional tracking and use a cloud streaming service, see Carmacks vr script and orbx/otoy. This will make it better than the htc vive on launch.