Lining up outside the Tempodrome on an unusually hot afternoon in Berlin, most tech journalists and bloggers wouldn’t have expected Samsung to really surprise them. That is becoming increasingly tough for tech companies to do, at least with innovative products, though some of them are trying to do it with their pricing.
But then Samsung had other plans, primarily by re-imagining the way the smartphone is used. This re-imagining is the Gear VR. At first everyone would have thought that the Korean company was just trying to do what Sony had done before or what Oculus was trying to do now. But then this wearable virtual reality device is nothing like what the mentioned devices are, primarily because of the fact this is actually an accessory, the device is just the new Galaxy Note 4 that is put into this eyepiece. Yes, I could almost hear some other smartphone companies go: “Why didn’t we think of this?”
Samsung has managed to get the one of the best names in the VR business, in this case Oculus, to get the technology in place. But VR will work only is the graphics are seamless and this is something most smartphone companies, despite their heavy specs would like to bet their bottom dollar on. Samsung has just gone ahead and done that, it has put itself in the hands of high-end gamers around the world who will not settle for anything but the best.
Jostling my way towards the far end of the experience zone, I managed a few minutes with the Gear VR. The device kep reminding me of the Sony HMZ-T3, though vizor on from is much wider to accommodate the 5.7-inch screen of the Note 4. Once you wear the device the difference becomes more stark. You are actually peering into two magnifying lenses. And you can’t wear your prescription glasses while wearing this. So I have to adjust the small dial on top to get the screen to suit my eyesight. I could not get it 100 per cent sharp and that might be a problem with a lot of people.
The eyepiece it self has a back button and a touch panel on right side. The attendant at the counter handed me over a game controller, though it was having trouble linking to the phone.
Still there was no doubting that this was a new experience. With the controller not linked, I could not get any of the characters in the games to move, but I could move my head and see that I have almost been transported to a virtual world. I say almost because, my eyes still did not have the clarity it sought, also you could see the pixellation on the screen. The other issue came with me felling all sweaty in front of the eyes and fogging up the screen in front. This did not happen to all people who tried the Gear VR, but I cannot help but think of the device being used in the Indian summer if this is not fixed.
Without a doubt this is a very innovative device from Samsung, with the innovation being more with the way a smartphone has been used at the core of virtual reality. In all probability this rig could end up being the cheapest virtual reality apparatus around. But I don’t expect this to hit store shelves soon. It would be better to wait a couple of upgrades before you ended up spending on a smartphone powered virtual reality set.
Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition specs
Optical Lens: 96˚ Field of View
Sensor: Accelerator, Gyrometer, Magnetic, Proximity
Motion to Photon Latency: < 20ms
Focal Adjustment: Covers Nearsighted / Farsighted Eyes
Interpupillary Distance Coverage” : 55 ~ 71 mm
Physical User Interface: Touch Pad, Back Button, Volume Key
Connection: microUSB 1.1 connection to the Galaxy Note 4
Dimension (Headset): 198(W) x 116(L) x 90(H)mm
Contents- Available through Oculus Store: microSD Card(16GB) in-box: A collection of 360-degree videos and 3D movie trailers from major studios will be pre-loaded.