No phone required: Samsung unleashes a Windows-based VR headset, the HMD Odyssey
Samsung has already staked out a big slice of the mobile virtual reality pie with the Gear VR, but now the company has announced a new headset, the HMD Odyssey. Ditching the need to slide a phone in there, the Odyssey will run on the Windows Mixed Reality platform, where it will join devices from the likes of Lenovo and Dell.
Microsoft is positioning the Mixed Reality platform squarely in the center of the VR playing field. The experiences and hardware are more advanced than phone-based devices like the Gear VR or Google's Daydream View, but (for now at least) they won't be as immersive as the high-end, room-scale offerings of the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.
The other key feature of Windows Mixed Reality is that it's a hardware agnostic system, meaning different companies can release different headsets and accessories that will all run the same software. All the announced headsets have been pure VR devices so far, but the "Mixed Reality" moniker suggests Microsoft might be leaving the door open to eventually integrate augmented reality systems, like its own HoloLens, into the ecosystem.
The Samsung HMD Odyssey looks set to sit at the top of the Mixed Reality food chain. While other headsets from HP, Dell, Lenovo and Acer use LCD screens, Samsung has gone for dual AMOLED displays, which should make for brighter colors and deeper blacks. Each screen measures 3.5 in, creating a combined resolution of 2,880 x 1,600 with a refresh rate of up to 90 Hz and a 110-degree field of view. Those specs are all higher than other Windows headsets, and it even boasts a better resolution than the top-end HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
Instead of a phone, the brains of the HMD Odyssey come from a PC or laptop running Windows 10, connected to the headset via a 4-m (13-ft) long HDMI and USB cable.
On the outside, the HMD Odyssey has a built-in microphone and surround-sound headphones, and a Six Degrees of Freedom (6DOF) motion sensor that tracks a wearer's movements from the inside-out. That means that users can move forward and backward, up and down and left and right, as well as tilt and turn their heads in three dimensions, without needing to set up external sensors around the room.
The HMD Odyssey controllers look much like those from other companies, which all seem to be from the Oculus Touch design school. They're small wand-shaped devices with buttons, triggers and thumbsticks, attached to larger rings around the top that allow the headset to track their movement. They have the same 6DOF sensors as the headset and are powered by two AAA batteries.
The Samsung HMD Odyssey will be available November 10 for US$499, which includes the headset and two controllers.