For a while, the world thought that Samsung was coming out with a competitor to the Oculus Rift VR headset. However, it is the exact opposite: earlier leaks indicated that the Gear VR would use a smartphone and it’s now official: the Samsung Gear VR is based on “Oculus technology”: it is a small, stylish VR headset shell that uses a Galaxy Note 4 as a VR display. In essence, you stick the Note 4 smartphone into the Gear VR to build a VR headset.
This is reminiscent of the Google Cardboard VR headset that we’ve played with at Google IO. The idea is quite simple, and is relatively efficient. Of course, it’s not as good as the actual Oculus VR headset, but it leverages existing hardware (your Note 4) and the build quality is much higher than any cardboard project – and you don’t have to put it together yourself.
If you think of it, a Galaxy Note 4 has a QHD display and enough motion sensors required to do the head tracking. The resolution is extremely important because the phone sits close to the eyes, and in some ways this could be sharper than the Oculus Rift headset.
This is a pretty awesome idea from Oculus and Samsung because it will open the door to millions of people having a VR experience without having to purchase a full-on Oculus VR headset, which is a steep barrier of entry for a lot of people. We don’t expect users to buy a Galaxy Note 4 just to use this, but once someone owns this phone, the upgrade to the Samsung Gear VR isn’t that high.
Oculus Rift CTO John Carmack presented the new hardware at IFA, and this VR apparatus can provide a 96 degrees view angle, which would be like looking at a 275” screen that fills the human field of view. We’ve tested it, and while this wasn’t as good as the full Oculus experience, it was pretty good and provides a nice introduction to modern Virtual Reality.
Update: Samsung has revealed the Samsung Gear VR Price.