Before you can understand why I love the Samsung Gear VR so much, there is something you need to know; virtual reality is hard! Now I don't mean 'just stay a little bit longer' kind of hard, I mean really really hard. To execute beautiful, immersive virtual reality experiences you need a big team of very talented people. But as there is not much money in virtual reality production currently, so we typically have small teams. Small teams of dedicated engineers, designers and artists who are phenomenally talented working to improve digital storytelling with blood, sweat, tears and passion. Virtual reality is hard!
Do you know what Samsung do well? Big, beautiful mobile screens. Do you know what Oculus do really well? Virtual reality. Samsung partnered with the best hardware product guys on the planet* to build them a VR headset. And I commend them for partnering rather than taking it on themselves, like some many of their contemporaries are undoubtable doing behind closed doors. For those who haven't yet used one, the secret is its not really a headset, it's just a couple of lenses and a frame, simply glasses if you will, driven by a Samsung handset.
This drives down costs astronomically and greatly accelerates the general consumer adoption**. How cheap? Well a pair will set you back only $199 but just this week Samsung have announced their next generation gear VR will be available for half that, a mear $99.
Any other real competitor is likely to be 5 times this price and leave you tethered to a computer. Talking of the tethering, as the headset is driving by your phone, mobility is the true genius of the Samsung Gear VR. Think about that, the only inseparable piece of technology you own is also the device that enables you to visit the virtual world.
Such a frictionless entry has been rewarded with valuable media consumption partnerships. Previously the biggest downfall to the Samsung Gear VR was it software. Now being driven by the powerful Samsung S6 handsets (with a beautiful big resolution of 1440px x 2560px on a dense 577ppi display), the device is breaking further into the mainstream with (hopefully) very capable software. Hulu, Twitch and Netflix are making their services available on the Samsung VR platform, and with this news came a very interesting guest blog post by the infamous John Carmack on the Netflix blog. So when CNN decided to stream the upcoming Democratic Presidential Debate in virtual reality, which platform do you think they turned to?
The Samsung Gear VR is an inexpensive, user friendly, portable and very clever little device backed by some big partnerships, that will inevitably cement a foothold in the mass market for years to come, and may even defend from the fruity onslaught of Apple's upcoming virtual reality device. Whilst the performance is lacking compared to its tethered counterparts it greatly surpasses in value.
Will this change mobile buying habits? No, I don't think so. But it certainly influenced my recent decision making process - I now own a Samsung S6 Edge+. But then again I'm the type of guy to carry around my Gear VR and show strangers on the train, just to see the expression of sheer delight from experiencing their first, or simply a compelling, virtual reality experiences.
*Save from Apple or the Fitbit team.
** With loving help from Google