Review : The Samsung Gear VR. One way ticket to VirtualSpace.

Jan 08

With the advent of the Occulus rift, a set of “virtual reality goggles” within the consumer price range, the breakthrough of Virtual Reality was imminent. Or so we thought. Turns out that VR, to many is nothing more then a gimmic and that scenes from “The lawnmower man” are far from part of our daily lives. The glasses where too expensive, the content available to niche.
The former part of that statement started to change when things like Google Cardboard came out. Basically a cardboard version of a futuristic ‘viewmaster’ with your smartphone as the screen. At an extremely low price people could dip their toes into VR-Space for the first time.
Since then some time has passed and recently Samsung has released their second iteration of “their” version of Google Cardboard : The Gear Vr. Using your high end Samsung Smartphone as a screen you pop this futuristic piece of plastic on your head and off you go.

 

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So how does it work ?
Once ’emerged’ into Virtual-Space the Occulus app store automatically kicks in allowing you to choose a variety of activities. By ‘browsing’ through the VR app store you can install apps, games and demo video’s (some are free, some are not) and give them a try. Navigation is done by moving your head around, selecting and scrolling can be done using a touchpad on the side of the glasses.
So what’s it like ?
Although this truly an ‘early adopters toy’, it is quite surprising how immersive your experience is. The default “room” you are in to select your app and activity is a giant hall in which you can look and move around. Pop in some headphones and you get the distinct feeling that you are really ‘there’. The old saying ‘What they eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes’ is pretty accurate.

Although this truly an ‘early adopters toy’, it is quite surprising how immersive your experience is.

 

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Any Content ?
There is some content out there like games (You can fight off the zombie apocalypse, even with an added wireless controller should you want to) You can visit the cirque de soleil (and be ON stage instead of in the crowd) or even try out your public speaking skills in a sort of ‘presentation simulator’.

A little bit of minority report.
Samsung also provides you with a “browser” that allows you to surf the internet. You can “search” using Google voice commands and browse around different pages. It becomes really cool when you can set different tabs side by side in a giant video wall. We enjoyed watching a Youtube movie this way, while having the IMDB page of the movie open on a second ‘screen’.

 

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Everything is big !
It is hard to explain what it actually “feels” like using the glasses. First of all : Everything is big ! Since you have no sense of scale every screen looks like its about 4 meters wide and 2 meters tall. “Monitors ? Where we are going we don’t NEED any monitors.” Doc McFly would cry. A perfect example is the Netflix application that lets you sit on a virtual couch in a virtual cabin watching a giant virtual srceen. We actually managed to sit through en entire movie in this application and be surprisingly entertained.

“Monitors ? Where we are going we don’t NEED any monitors.”

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So are we there yet ?
Probably not, this is still early-on technology and the fact whether this is a gadget or a tool can be best evaluated by asking the question : Would you actually use this. The answer is : For browsing and games I would use it occasionally. But I DO see me using this on a plane to watch Netflix (and chill). T
The technology is very immersive and that is also a little bit of the downside. Using this in public makes you look like a total zombie since you are completely spaced out. You don’t hear OR see ANYTHING of your surroundings. Its the antisocial teen with headphones on during a family diner, multiplied by a factor of 10. You are in VR space or in real space .. but you can never peek ‘over’ your screen.
At a 100 euro’s it is surely worth a try to play around with Virtual Reality technology AND get away from your messy room OR noisy kids. The gear VR is only compatible with selected Samsung phones and only works with content from the Occulus app BUT there is quite a bit to try out.

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