Samsung’s latest product reveal isn’t another smart watch or Android phone – it’s an all new virtual reality system that uses Oculus’s VR technology and the just-announced Galaxy Note 4 to complete the experience.
Coming on like a posh version of Google Cardboard (something which Recombu TOTALLY INVENTED by the way) the Gear VR will let you step into immersive cinema and gaming experiences once you’ve connected your Note 4.
Partnerships with Hollywood studios will let you interact with characters from the DreamWorks Animation universe, step into the cockpit of a Jaeger fighting robot from Pacific Rim and hang out in Tony Stark’s lab from Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Concert and movie experiences provided by Vevo, Cirque du Soliel Media and IMAX promises to offer the next best thing to watching a live gig or sitting in the cinema.
Other studio partners announced for the Gear VR include Paramount, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for a future Lord of the Rings battle of Helm’s Deep experience.
On top of this, 3D games – the same ones available to Oculus Rift owners – can be downloaded from the Oculus Store.
The Gear VR isn’t wholly a Samsung creation. It’s been developed in tandem with the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift makers, Oculus.
Chief technology officer for Oculus John Carmack explained that working closely with Samsung allowed his team to create a system which really gets the best out of the Note 4’s 5.7-inch Quad HD (2560 x 1440) screen.
Oculus used the speed at which the Super AMOLED display can light up and turn off pixels to their advantage.
Super AMOLEDs can fire up pixels in a fraction of a second, much more quickly than a standard LED panel can, which Carmack says this allowed the Oculus team to virtually eliminate motion blur, something which is the greatest killer of immersion in virtual reality.
Carmack briefly described the process behind what he called a ‘motion to photons latency,’ the lag between you moving your head in any direction and the system rendering graphics quickly enough for them to hit the Note 4’s screen.
Working closely with Samsung meant that the team could get this latency down to 20 milliseconds, in other words fast enough for you to be able to quickly look around the virtual environments without noticing any lag.
“We are thrilled to reveal the Gear VR Innovator Edition, a state-of-the-art mobile VR experience powered by Oculus. The deep technical partnership with Samsung has enabled us to create a virtual reality headset with world class resolution and performance, all on a completely mobile platform.”
As well as getting that motion to photons latency down to a convincing enough rate, the Gear VR can also be adjusted for near and far-sighted viewers which should mean if you wear glasses then you should be able to slip a Gear VR on without having to worry about your specs getting crushed against the Note 4.
It’s not yet known how strong the focal adjustment is, so if you’ve got really strong prescription glasses, you might not be able to enjoy the Gear VR.
It doesn’t appear that there is a separate battery built in to the Gear VR itself. The Galaxy Note 4’s 3220mAh cell sounds big on paper, but how many gaming hours that will give you is another thing altogether.
A price and a release date for the Gear VR hasn’t been announced. The model announced today is the so-called Innovator Edition, so as with Oculus Rift and Google Glass we’re expecting that only developers and early adopters will be able to get their mitts on one at least initially.