Samsung officially joined the virtual reality hardware race on Wednesday by formally revealing the Gear VR.
Gear VR stands out for its use of the newly revealed Galaxy Note 4. The enlarged smartphone slots into the helmet’s micro-USB dock and acts as the screen.
Paired with the helmet’s adjustable lenses, which are built into the headset, the Galaxy Note 4’s accelerometer and gyrometer are used to track head movement, thus creating a virtual reality impression.
Together these parts create a unique wireless VR headset that doesn’t need to be tied to a PC, though it also means the Gear VR cannot yet measure depth.
According to a preview by Engadget, the lack of depth is a particular negative aspect, as is the Note’s relatively low processing and graphical capabilities.
The software for Gear VR was created by Oculus VR, the pioneering team that sparked the rebirth of virtual reality with its Oculus Rift headset.
According to an update on the Oculus Blog, the whole initiative began “as an experiment to see if great VR was possible on next-generation mobile hardware”.
It added: “Oculus CTO John Carmack and the mobile team at Oculus were able to blow everyone away in an extremely short amount of time, quickly proving that we were on to something special.”
Samsung says an early ‘Innovation Edition’ of the Gear VR will launch across North America this year. Exact release times, and international plans, have yet to be revealed.
The Galaxy Note 4 provides a 5.7 inch 1440p screen, while the Oculus Mobile SDK is said to optimise the smartphone’s GPU.
One key feature for the new headset is Oculus Cinema – a virtual movie theater, allowing users to play their favorite 2D and 3D movies in a variety of theater environments.
The Oculus team was also keen to state that work on the mobile project “doesn’t change our plans for the Rift or our commitment to (and love for) the PC”.