Thanks to Samsung Trinidad for providing this review unit. Virtual reality (and related tech like augmented reality, blended reality and holograms) are getting attention in the consumer space these days. Samsung’s offering is the Gear VR. The Gear VR works with a compatible Samsung smartphone and the various apps. It’s an entry level consumer product designed for the masses.
Inside the box you get the headset, two straps and a manual. To fit my larger S6 edge+ I had to adjust the left clamp. There is an A and B indicator. I had to give the button to move the clamp a strong press to get it going. Once you connect your phone to the Gear VR for the first time you get prompted to install the apps. The installation is guided and you are asked to create an Oculus account to access their store. I recommend using a microfiber cloth to clean your smartphone screen and the lenses before using.
The Gear VR tracks your head movement standing in one spot. It does not track movement of your body. It is powered by Oculus who have a rich history in this arena. The experience is great. You do feel like you are in another world. It is light and comfortable. There is a growing amount of content and apps for the Gear VR. It is a great way to consume videos from 360 degree cameras. It is moderately priced. I asked a popular shop in Trinidad and was told it costs TT $1100. There is an optional game controller and some apps support voice commands. There is a Samsung browser (in beta) for it.
I was sweating somewhat with use and my smartphone did get warm to the touch. Experiences that would interest me are concerts, football games, car racing games and guided meditation. You have the option of receiving notifications while you use the Gear VR. Nice to have would be the ability to answer calls while using the Gear VR or the ability to access the phone’s home screen, apps and functions or the ability to do screen captures. I felt silly when I realised I had to remove the front panel when using the pass-through camera feature. This allows you to see the outside world with the smartphone’s camera. For a better experience I recommend using your favourite wireless headphones.
How can VR make the world a better place? It can be used as a teaching aid, for therapy such as meditation and to change behavior in society (through experiences versus theory). The Gear VR becomes really useful when the ecosystem grows. When app developers, content creators and companies get on board. In doing my research for this review I came across mentions of the screen door effect where you can see the lines between the pixels. This is something that VR headset makers will want to minimise in the future.
The Gear VR is lighter than the previous version and the touchpad is improved now that you can feel the grooves. It does drain your battery with extended use and that is something to keep in mind. There is a micro USB port so you can have your phone charging while in the Gear VR. There is space to fit my glasses but I found that I saw better without my glasses and using the wheel atop to adjust focus. I am reading that it may not work well for persons with strong prescriptions, different prescriptions in each eye or astigmatism. If this is you then you may want to test it out before buying.
I gave my mom a try and she said it feels like if you are in a dream. The Gear VR does have that wow effect with users. It is an immersive and compelling viewing experience. It’s definitely a nice to have and it makes you feel like you are on the cutting edge of technology. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.