Samsung updates VR lineup with Gear VR motion controller and updated Gear 360 camera
A new Gear VR headset with its own motion controller, a pocket-sized 360-degree camera, and a potential new dedicated VR headset were all on the docket for Samsung at a New York press event on Wednesday. Let's dive into the specifics of Samsung's newest VR tech.
Gear VR, now with 100 Percent more Motion
Samsung's newest iteration of the Gear VR repeats Samsung's mobile VR formula, allowing you to slot in the newest Galaxy S8 plus several older Galaxy S series phones, including the S7, S7 Edge, S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, and the Note 5. As has been the case with previous Samsung phones, pre-orders of the Galaxy S8 will automatically receive one of the new Gear VR along with the newly announced motion controllers.
Aside from the new motion controller, there's really nothing special about the new Gear VR itself, which is interesting considering the Gear VR controller will also be compatible with any previous iteration of the Gear VR. Of course, this is a a good move for Samsung if they want to seriously push their VR division forward as a unified platform rather than just the newest Gear VR on its own playing field.
The new Gear VR motion controller represents the first major competition in this area for Google's Daydream mobile VR project, which also features a compact motion controller.
The Gear VR's controller brings an updated list of features to the table, including a touchpad, a very familiar trigger, and many of the motion controls that made Daydream such a dream to use in comparison to the Gear VR's previous method of manually looking around and clicking a button on the headset for input.
The controller itself reportedly feels like a middle ground between the HTC Vive's larger controller and Google Daydream's Wand. The comparison is easy to understand when you take in the tiny size of the Gear VR controller along with the iconic flat touchpad-trigger combo that's become the standard for HTC and Valve.
The Gear VR Controller will come bundled with the new Gear VR for $130 on April 21, but will also be available for sale on its own for $40 if you're interested in picking one up for an older iteration of Samsung's Mobile VR solution.
360 Degree Video in the palm of your hand
There were quite a few complaints about Samsung's first attempt at a 360-degree consumer level camera. Everything from price, to scratched lenses, to the size of the camera itself, to limited phone compatibility all made the old Gear 360 as much of hard sell as a 360-degree camera can be. That said, it was also one the best options on the market, and Samsung is determined to keep that trend going, while doing their best to fix any issues the older version of the hardware might try to bring along for the ride.
For starters, the new Gear 360 has done away with the large fish eye bulb, which made fitting the camera in a pocket a challenge reserved for cargo pants from the nineties and the stretchiest of sweat pants that no one wants to be seen in in public. The new Gear 360 fits comfortably in the palm of your hand and can easily be tucked away in most pockets for the 360-degree filmmaker on the go.
Samsung has done away with the tripod and replaced it with a handle-like stand and a small rubber ring that can be slipped on the bottom for a bit of extra stability. It's a compromise that shouldn't sacrifice a massive amount of stability, and makes the camera much easier to hold and freecam with on the fly. This handle also contains the Gear 360's batteries, which are now fully rechargeable and should be good for up to two hours of recording at a 2K resolution.
Additionally, Samsung has increased the top recording resolution to a true blue 4K at 24FPS, and broadened their compatibility horizons by a small fraction to include certain iPhone models like the iPhone 7, the 6S, and the special editions of each model. This compatibility will also include the Samsung S6 and above, as well as Samsung's mid-level models the A5 and the A7. This means that even more people will be able to actually live view their recording on their devices in glorious 4K.
It's important to note that Samsung hasn't released any information concerning the sale of replacement lenses yet, one of the biggest shortcomings of the previous iteration of the Gear 360. Although the lenses could be easily removed, Samsung didn't offer any sort of replacement if the lenses were scratched despite consumer complaints. Considering the new Gear 360 is even more portable and likely to be stored in ways that are even more apt to scratch the dual lenses, we can only hope Samsung has replacement lenses on the list of to-dos.
The Gear 360 will hit the market in late April or May, and although no official pricing has been announced it'll reportedly be less expensive than the old Gear 360, so expect it to run under $350.
Mainstream VR to compete with Oculus and HTC
Although Samsung and Oculus have maintained what could be called a relatively close relationship in the past, it appears that Samsung wants to push into the mainstream VR market alongside Oculus and HTC in a big way.
Lee Young-hee, the executive VP of marketing for Samsung, announced that Samsung is currently developing high-end VR headsets to appeal to more serious markets like gamers and media producers. Although their headsets are still in the early development stages, they're definitely on the horizon as part of the second track for Samsung's VR development.
The first track is of course their mobile VR market, bringing VR to as many people as possible and making it a regular part of the way they consume media. Track two is presumably moving those people toward more powerful VR applications that a dedicated, standalone VR headset can support.
We probably won't see Samsung's VR headset for quite some time, and there's no word on what features it'll carry over from it's competitors as far as wireless technology, video resolution, and how they plan to actively bring their mobile VR audience into mainstream VR experiences. Yet, it proves that between Microsoft's VR headsets, the OSVR, HTC, and Oculus, everyone and their mother is digging deep into consumer VR.
There's been no news as to how Oculus plans to react to Samsung becoming potential VR competition, considering how close the two companies seem to be working to bring social and mobile VR together, but we have no doubt that Facebook and Oculus will keep it professional in the meantime. Though we wouldn't be surprised to see Oculus and Facebook quietly working on a more consumer-friendly mobile VR experience on their own.