What Does Samsung’s New VR Gear Mean for You?

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on November 9, 2015, Buying Guides

Are you ready for the next generation of smart phone accessories? Just weeks ago, Samsung announced that their new VR Gear would be on sale by the end of the year, with US consumer prices being as low as $99. But wait, what is the VR Gear? Why would you want one? Get ready to have your mind blown, because this is the coolest mobile development we’ve seen since the touch screen!

What’s VR?

Let’s start with the basics here. VR stands for virtual reality. Imagine a world where you can immerse yourself completely in the film that you’re watching. A world where the game that you’re playing surrounds you on all sides. A world where visual things aren’t constricted by the dimensions of a screen. That world is VR.

Right now you probably have a pretty decent TV set, with good resolution and a great picture, and things look pretty good. But VR takes things a whole leap ahead of that. You will be surrounded by whatever you’re seeing. Stand in the middle of the Simpson’s living room and you’ll be looking at their couch, but turn your head and you’ll see the kitchen, turn around and you’ll see their TV. Playing a game? Then you’d turn slightly to the right and you’ll see that guy that’s preparing to snipe you from behind the bushes.

Virtual Reality is the kind of science fiction development that we’ve been waiting for, and it’s now, well, reality. Not only that, but it’s affordable reality, thanks to the Samsung VR Gear. Okay, okay, it’s almost reality, but bear with us for a moment.

So What’s the VR Gear Then?

The VR Gear has been developed with the aid of Oculus, the leading VR innovator, and essentially it’s a head set. You plug in your phone, lift the head set over your head, and you’ll be plunged into video, games or whatever else you’re looking at. The set itself sits comfortably on the face, adjustable straps making for a good, tight fit, and cushioning meaning that it’s fairly comfy to wear as well.

There’s a bunch of controls on the head set too. A cross styled track pad will let you navigate menus, meaning that you don’t need to take the set off to change your game or your movie on your phone. There’s also a handy focus wheel at the top. The VR Gear isn’t designed for use with glasses, but that focus wheel lets you play with the picture until you can see it perfectly.

You get quad HD screen tech, for the perfect picture. Oh, and you get the latest in 3D sound technology too, so you’ll be able to hear perfectly…

What Can I Do With It?

So far you might have been pretty excited (we definitely were), but we’re going to start getting a little more down to earth now. The truth is that just at the moment there’s not a lot that you can do if you go rushing out to buy that new VR Gear. Apps are limited, which is understandable since this is new technology.

Basically the functionality of the VR Gear right now is limited to more or less watching video. You do get options, you can sit right on the stage of your favourite gig, you can watch a film as though you were in the cinema (complete with other seats in your peripheral vision). But that’s it. And the few available apps reflect this. There is a Netflix VR app, and a Hulu one is coming soon, as well as support for Vimeo.

A few other apps are available, such as Facebook, but why anyone would want to watch their Facebook feed scroll past their eyes is kind of mystifying. There are also a handful of 360 degree video games available.

The good news is that since this is the first affordable VR head set, and it’s new tech, app developers are falling over themselves trying to design new programmes for the VR Gear. So we shouldn’t have to wait too long before we get more options.

The Downsides…

And the VR Gear isn’t perfect, at least not yet. There’s the lack of available apps, though that should change soon. But there’s also the fact that this isn’t quite full immersion. Some specially made videos and games are completely 360 degrees, so you can turn in any direction and still get content. For the most part though, you’re basically watching a movie on a screen that curves around so that you have peripheral vision. Turning around whilst watching The Godfather isn’t going to let you see the hidden side of the Corleone’s house. The main screen of the film will simply follow you around. In actuality for most content you’re getting a viewing radius of around 96 degrees, which is hardly perfect.

And the new VR Gear isn’t for any phone user either. You’ll need to have a Samsung Galaxy 6 or 6 Edge in order to plug in, so whilst the head set itself might be affordable the tech you’ll need to go along with it really isn’t.

Bottom Line

The new Samsung Gear VR IS exciting, despite its limitations. The idea that true virtual reality is within reach is pretty awesome. And remember that this is only the first generation. Well, okay, technically it’s the second generation, but last year’s VR Gear Innovator edition was expensive and marketed towards developers rather than normal consumers. This is the shape of things to come, and even if you’re not convinced enough to buy the VR Gear right now, a couple of years from now things are probably going to be very different.

The VR Gear launches in the US in November, and will retail for $99 (around £65). That makes this a fairly cheap gadget, one that’s affordable for most of us, and maybe just affordable enough to invest in despite the fact that this isn’t quite full VR. At the very least you’re going to want to check out a demo model. Who knows, you might find yourself buying a new Samsung Galaxy S6 just so you can use the VR Gear (not that that is Samsung’s intention, we’re sure…).