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

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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Five new years resolutions for a (budding) Cross Platform Geek.

With another successful orbit around the sun completed, its time for us carbon based lifeforms to dream up some list of ‘Things we would like to improve on’ in 2016. Since we all lack the telepathic mind controlling abilities to force these improvements upon others on a global scale, it is perhaps more prudent to start with ourselves. So here are 5 things you might want to “improve on” for those of you who have not taken the plunge into the wonderful world of cross platform computing.

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1: Stop being such a fanboy.
Are you “This guy/girl” at every party that religiously promotes brand/platform XYZ and gets into countless arguments on which is the better brand/platform/phone with your friends and relatives ? Have you spent most of Christmas eve explaining to your cousin why Android is far superior to IOS ? How about you stop doing that in 2016 ? Seriously. Somehow you are playing out the exact scenario that marketeers have planned out for you. Somewhere, somehow you have developed this religious devotion to a certain brand or platform that is just (for a lack of a better word) STUPID.

If you have ever gotten into a situation where app/platform/brand X has NOT been more then satisfactory, yet ignored this issue (To yourself and your peers.) because it didn’t line up with your beliefs / previous statements, then you’re a fanboy and you need to stop.  So stop droning on about how your iPhone is superiour to all other phones on the planet and actually take the time to try out some of the alternatives. God forbid .. you might like them.

Have you ever gotten into a situation where app/platform/brand X has NOT been more then satisfactory, yet ignored this issue ?

2: Stray away from your favorite applications.
“I can’t move to platform X because I use application Y”. I’ve heard it a dozen times over. ‘Nope, Can’t switch to Linux because I NEED Outlook.’ Surprise: You don’t NEED an application, you need to perform the process that is TIED to that application. You don’t NEED Outlook, you NEED to be able to communicate via Email. The correct statement would actually be: ‘Nope, Can’t switch to Linux because I am afraid to learn how to work with another Email client.’ So try to get out of that sticky situation by NOT devoting ALL your time and energy using JUST your favorite apps. Whether its an app on your phone or one on your desktop .. there are probably plenty alternatives out there that you can tinker with, just for the fun of it.  God forbid … you might like them.

You don’t NEED Outlook, you NEED to be able to communicate via Email.

3: Give one flavor of Linux  a try this year, for real this time.
Any self-respecting geek HAS taken the time to “Play around” with Linux. For some this means a devotion to the platform where they live out their entire geek-lives in the command line, but for most this means just slapping in a live-boot thumb drive, fiddling around with it for 20 minutes before deeming it “too slow” and going back to whatever OS you used before.

This year, try something different. Devote an old PC (and some of your time) to actually giving it a go as a primary operating system for a week. Write up a blogpost about what you like and what you hate. If a complete desktop experience is too much for you, try out something small like playing with a Raspberry Pi and tinkering with one of many interesting projects you can build. God forbid .. you might like it.

Devote an old PC (and some of your time) to actually giving it a go as a primary operating system for a week.

4: Lean on the communities.
You might be spending a lot of your online time aimlessly scrolling through 9gag, Facebook or Tinder. So why not spice things up a little by going out of your way to find some online geek communities you can learn from ? If any of the cross platform endeavors stated above trigger you to learn more or get some help .. lean on the communities ! There are plenty of forums, sub-Reddits and Google+ groups about the topic you are diving into. They will be able to provide you with excellent feedback and support. Why waste hours on Googling when you can just ask the experts. God forbid .. you might like it there.

There are plenty of forums, sub-Reddits and Google+ groups about the topic you are diving into.

5: Give something in return.
And if, on your adventures into cross platform computing, have learned something new ? Why not give some back ? Post your experiences back to the forums, comment in the discussions and put your new found experience to good use by helping others. If you are feeling truly daring, why not try your hand a podcasting. Recording a simple episode on your phone and submitting it to the Hacker Public Radio podcast is a great way to get started. You will learn that the best way to learn,is to teach. God forbid .. you might like it.

You will learn that the best way to learn,is to teach.

So let 2016 be the year for you where you step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Try a new OS, a different brand of phone or some geeky new project that lets you control your home lights from the internet. We at Knightwise.com wish you good luck in your endeavours.

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