At the Oculus Connect Developer Conference today, Samsung SVP Peter Koo announced a new Samsung Gear VR headset designed to give millions more users their first taste of VR: it’s compatible with any 2015 Samsung flagship smartphone and costs just US$99 (half the price of the pre-consumer Gear VR Innovator Edition headsets).
The unit, scheduled to ship in November, lets anyone with a Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Note 5 or S6 Edge+ handset plug in and play. It’s 22 percent lighter than the previous version, according to Samsung, and includes an improved touchpad system.
It’s “virtual reality for everyone” in the words of Koo – or at least everyone with a newer Samsung smartphone – and it prepares the ground for the full Oculus Rift launch coming next year (a much more capable but PC-based headset).
Any good headset needs content and software, and Oculus and Samsung had some announcements on that front too. Netflix, Hulu and Twitch are three of the apps users will find available inside the Gear VR ecosystem in the near future. That doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly be able to step into the world of House of Cards, but you will be able to watch it in a virtual cinema designed to your tastes.
Games were on the agenda too. Oculus’ Max Cohen announced a new Oculus Arcade portal, ready for the Gear VR, which is going to feature classic arcade games from the likes of Sega, Midway and Bandai Namco. We’re also going to see many more original games, like the recently announced Land’s End from UsTwo (the developers of Monument Valley).
With a cheap ticket price, compatibility with more phones and enough content to make a purchase worthwhile, the new Samsung Gear VR should mean virtual reality is in the hands (or on the heads) of many more people by Christmas.
Gizmag on the ground at Oculus Connect; stay tuned for hands-on impressions and executive interviews.