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Samsung Gear VR (2016) Review

THE GOOD Affordable. Easy to attach. Great audio-visual quality for a phone-based VR accessory. A growing library of apps and games. This model is more comfortable than earlier versions, and you can charge the phone while using it.

THE BAD Only works with a specific collection of Samsung phones. Oculus PC game and app library isn’t cross-compatible with Android or Google Cardboard VR ecosystems. Lacks the positional awareness of PC-based VR rigs. Limited inputs mean it’s less immersive VR than you can get with larger, more-expensive PC-connected systems like the Rift.

THE BOTTOM LINE The latest Gear VR adds compatibility with Samsung’s latest phones and cements its position as the best mobile VR product right now.

And the Price : (99.99 $)

Samsung Gear VR Product Link For buy: http://www.samsung.com/us/explore/gear-vr/

I remember putting the Samsung Gear VR on my face and being blown away by the experiences it created. It was my first take-home doorway into virtual reality. That was December, 2014.

VR has since become a commodity everywhere: in high-end PC-connected systems like Oculus Rift and Vive, in cheap disposable phone accessories like Google Cardboard. There will be game console-ready stuff in PSVR, soon, too. But in the meantime, the Gear VR abides, a veteran in this fast-moving landscape.

The newest version, which connects to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and a handful of older Galaxy phones, is really pretty much the same. The connectors and a few finishing touches are different. (To be clear: if you’re happy with any one of the earlier Gear VR models, you’re fine — the changes are tweaks, not overhauls.)

I said “the same,” but that’s not really true at all. Oculus and Samsung — the headset is a joint venture — have steadily continued updating the software and app library in Gear VR. There are hundreds of apps and games, and so many types of streaming-video experiences via apps like Oculus Video, Within, Jaunt and others, that the amount of things to do seems inexhaustible.

There’s a small price to pay. Many apps cost anywhere from $1 to $10, and it’s hard to vet out the quality. Some games are well worth it (like Anshar Wars, Minecraft or Neverout); others feel buggy and low-quality. And your taste in VR games and apps might not be the same as mine. The aesthetics of virtual reality are still evolving and hard to figure out without trying some stuff. And — VR aficionados take note — just because Oculus helped design the Gear VR doesn’t mean that your PC-based Oculus Rift games will be playable here, and vice versa — there’s very little software crossover, although your Oculus account is the same and there are a growing set of intercommunicating functions…and a few apps like Minecraft that will play nicely together.

But, as a $100 accessory for your phone — provided you have a Samsung phone that works with it — Gear VR is still the best mobile way to dive into other worlds. And, for me, I still use it more than the obviously better, but harder to set up and share Vive or Oculus Rift.

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The same, with a few tweaks

Gear VR comes in a new blue-black design that looks more like the higher-end PC-connected Rift, but it’s the same concept as the white-and-black accessory it’s replacing. You slot your phone (a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ or Note 5,) in, strap it on your face, and put on headphones.

The new Gear VR has a slightly improved field of view: 101 degrees, versus 96 degrees. I couldn’t discern the difference. The focal wheel, which works with glasses or without, is easier to turn, and the headset fit more comfortably on my face. The side trackpad’s a bit larger, smoother, and is easier to find with your fingers. There’s also a new button above the trackpad that’s a direct Home button shortcut, sitting next to a “back” button that helps navigate the Gear VR menus and settings.

The new Gear VR exists because it now works with the USB-C connected Note 7, and other Samsung phones that may use it going forward. You also get an easy-to-attach adapter to plug in an older Micro-USB phone instead. There’s also a second USB-C port which Samsung says will work with future accessories. Right now, those don’t exist…but I’m intrigued. In the meantime, that port helps charge the Note 7 while it’s on your face. Using Gear VR burns through the phone’s battery.

FYI, the Note 7’s rear camera works better in passthrough mode, if you ever use it, to see around while still wearing the headset. I do this once in awhile when I’m lazy and want to grab something on my desk.

VR’s rising expectations

Gear VR is still, absolutely, the best VR you can get on the go or with a phone. But it’s so good that my expectations start to shift. Suddenly, I forget I’m using a phone. I think I could play games that are as good as the Oculus Rift. And I can’t. The graphics obviously aren’t as capable, but also there aren’t any good controller options. Gear VR has a side-mounted touchpad on its headset, or you could use a paired Bluetooth game controller. Neither are as good as using an Xbox controller with a Rift on a PC. Deeper games with more advanced controls feel jerky-jerky.

In AltSpace VR, for instance, which throws people using Gear VR, Rift and even Vive together to explore virtual spaces and chat, I found my limited controls frustrating. I found myself in a gaming parlor where a Vive-using avatar handed me a sword with one of his floating motion-controller game wands. I gladly took it…but all it did was float in front of my face when I pressed my controller’s button.

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And moving around the room wasn’t fluid, because unlike PC VR systems, the phone-based Gear VR doesn’t have positional tracking. In other words, if I lean forward or bend down, nothing happens. And to walk across the room, I need to move my game controller stick or use the trackpad on the side of my head. With games and apps tuned to Gear VR, especially basic 360-degree video players, that’s not a problem. But as games get more evolved, it feels like a drawback. It makes me want to dive back into using Vive and my gaming PC.

Of course, these are totally different experiences. Gear VR is a $100 accessory for a phone — that’s cheaper than a good pair of headphones. The Rift and Vive are $600 and $800…and that doesn’t even include the required high-end gaming PC.

The current Gold Standard for mobile VR

Again, now that other options are here, the Gear VR feels more like a VR Starter Pack. It’s an excellent on-the-go toy, and it’s the most finely tuned hardware in mobile. It has the best selection of high-quality mobile VR apps, too. It also just might be my favorite VR platform right now, because it’s so simple to set up and carry around. I can share it with others. I can take it to other rooms. It’s low-maintenance.

PC-based VR is far more impressive, and transformative. But most people still won’t be able to afford it — or need it. Until that level of VR drops down to a reasonable (and more polished) level, Gear VR still seems like the way to go.

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OCULUS RIFT: Welcome To The Future

Virtual reality: Fooling your senses into seeing something that’s not there. Making the unreal real.

The technology has been percolating in fits and starts for the past 20 years. Now, it’s not only here, it’s the next frontier, and companies from Facebook to Google to Microsoft know that VR is likely the next step up from phones, tablets and computer screens. They’re all jockeying to dominate the next big computing platform.(Check this post for more information)

Samsung’s Gear VR and Google Cardboard were just the start. The HTC Vive (coming soon) is the big competitor. And PlayStation VR, coming in October, may well be VR’s mass market breakthrough. But the real race begins here and now, with the Oculus Rift.

Close your eyes and step inside. Things are about to get weird.

Note: This isn’t your typical gadget review. VR is best told in two stories…the potential dream and the day-one reality. What you see here is our take on both, in parallel. Read on and follow along.

THE EYES

VR

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My eyes aren’t here anymore. They’re somewhere else. Once the eyepiece is over my face, I’m gone. Like looking through a window into another world.

It’s a city that’s in front of me. Trees sway gently. I know they’re not real, but I look closely at them. I lift my head, I see sky. Blue like you’d rarely really see.

I look down. My legs are gone. I see wings. And a beak.

If I lean forward, the flower in front of me comes closer. I duck down towards it. I want to smell it.

It’s a world I’ve moved into like I’m wearing a magic scuba mask. It’s everywhere. And I hear a voice, too.

I turn around, and see the forest behind me. A cliff, rising up. A nest near the top, where my eggs are.

I’ve wanted to be other places, see other things. Now, at last, I feel like I’m really there.

It’s a dream I’ve had since I was a child, that I’ve read about in science fiction books. To cast myself somewhere else. To open a magic door. It’s the closest I’ve been to that dream.

As I spend more time here, I lose track of where the rest of my real body is.

I flap my wings and fly.

I place the Oculus Rift on my head, stretching its spring-loaded frame onto my skull. The visor slides down over my eyes. The lenses fill with light. It feels like I’m wearing a set of ski goggles attached to a baseball cap — the most advanced baseball cap in the world.

Reality

For $600, it had better be. Not counting the hundreds I spent to upgrade my computer.

Inside the fabric-covered contraption, I see a computer-generated room. It’s not very striking at first. It’s a little bit grainy, like I’m looking through a fine mesh. My field of view seems a little small. But when I move my head, the room is all around me. Whichever way I look, or lean, or even crouch down, my perspective shifts as if I were actually there.

This is not like having a tiny TV strapped to my face. Nothing like the Google Glass or Virtual Boy of yore. This feels like I’ve inserted my head into another world.

Admittedly, it’s a world where I’m wearing a big, black goggle-cap that keeps me from seeing as clearly as I’d like. At least the straps are fairly comfortable and you only have to adjust them once.

The visual artifacts don’t always bug me. Like the drops of water on my car’s windshield on a rainy day, I usually find myself ignoring the slightly blurry vision and the glowing halos that constantly appear around any bright object in the world. Other times, they’re all I can think about.

Sometimes, I want to take off the helmet. To feel the wind on my face. But as soon as I rip it off, I’m no longer a bird. I’m just a dude, sitting in his apartment, with sweat on my brow.

THE HANDS

VR

There’s something on the table. I lean forward; I can see it. And I can reach forward, and pick it up.

Each of my hands, somewhere, are encased in plastic, buttons. In this world, I’m pushing through, holding the cup in my hands. I now look for the pot, the one on the stove. I lift it. I pour everything into the cup. And now, ever so carefully, I put the cup down on a table that doesn’t exist.

My head pokes into this world, and I can pull back at these magic pieces. I grab the pot and throw it across the room.

I’m on a field. I lift my arm. The plays I’m meant to call are written across it. I touch one with my other hand. Then a ball lands in my hands, and I see my receiver. I raise my arm, and throw.

My hands are in front of me. I can see them, but they’re metal, like crab claws. They’re guns. They’re clown gloves. They’re dog paws. They’re whatever they need to be. They change. But I can lift them, move them. Or am I just pushing buttons? Am I moving, or dreaming I’m moving? It becomes so seamless I can’t tell.

I reach into my ear. I pull out a magic ball. I reach into my mouth. I pull out a flower.

Reality

I have no hands inside the Oculus Rift.

Not yet.

The headgear’s hidden sensors let me nod, lean in, even cock my head to one side, but there are no hands to reach out and touch things with.

My options are a wireless Xbox One gamepad, or a little pill-shaped remote control if I merely want to navigate menus and adjust the volume. Both come bundled with the Rift.

Usually, the gamepad makes sense. Joysticks are no substitute for hands, but a lot of early Oculus games don’t try to make you grab.

I’m in the cockpit of a starfighter now, where I’d have joysticks anyhow.

Or instead of looking through a video game character’s eyes, I’m controlling them from a distance — much like the Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto or Metal Gear games you’d play on an Xbox or PlayStation.

But after trying Oculus’ own excellent Touch controllers — coming this fall — the gamepad feels dated. Why can’t I just point where I want my character to go? Why can’t I just reach out and grab that virtual joystick in that virtual cockpit, instead of using real ones?

Without hands, the experience feels incomplete. So much so, that I’d say it’s OK to wait for the Oculus Touch controllers before buying a Rift.

THE ROOM

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There are no walls here. Space stretches on forever. And a pile of sticks lies in front of me. A wheel. A pole.

I walk over and pick up a stick, stretch it apart. I start joining it together with a wheel. I’m building something. I walk around it. I’m leaning down to fix it. I can lift it. I can carry it. At times, it feels like I’m really walking, step by step. Then, the room shrinks. Now I’m towering over it like a god. Space has changed again.

I hear the drummer behind me. My bandmates are getting ready to perform. I see the crowd in front of me. I step forward; I walk to the microphone and I yell out to the crowd. Suddenly I wonder, can I walk into the audience? Can I walk offstage? How far can I go?

I see another space. I no longer feel my old world. Now I’m in an astronaut suit, floating, trapped. I can’t get up — feel like I’m suffocating. I don’t know how to escape. Which exits can I run through? Can I go through the hatch and float away forever? I want to keep going. But I don’t know if I can.

I feel the pull of a cord.

Reality

With the Oculus Rift, my head might be in another world — but the rest of my body is stuck inside these walls. I can’t shake the feeling I’m being pulled between the real and the virtual.

In my real living room, a tether runs down the back of my skull. I’m jacked into the Matrix with a 13-foot cable that leads to a powerful desktop computer. I sit, or stand, in front of a camera that tracks my head’s every move. Built-in headphones pipe in 3D audio and I can tell where the shots are coming from, even if I turn.

But if I move too far, or if something blocks the sensor, my real and virtual movements won’t match up. If the game turns me a direction my real body isn’t turned, subconscious alarm bells go off. I start to sweat. I get nauseous for hours if I don’t stop.

So I sit or stand, instead of walking around.

In my real living room, the Rift isn’t a nuisance. The single cable leading to the headset lies flat on the floor. I haven’t tripped once. It’s easy to wrap up, or even remove for easy storage.

Initial setup isn’t so easy, though, especially when upgrading an older PC. Even though my 5-year-old processor was up to the task, my USB ports and graphics card didn’t work. It turns out many don’t.

Virtual reality is a complex illusion, and an easy one to break right now.

THE DOORS

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Dozens of dreams. A bookshelf full of experiences. I’m halfway through trying to save my friend from missile fire. I’m taking a break in a forest, watching allosaurus hunt. Now I’m finishing my strange transparent car project. And now I’m watching real people, war veterans, telling stories. But they can’t see me.

Sometimes I want to stay in one place. Sometimes I want to leave. Sometimes I want to talk to people. Sometimes I don’t want to be seen.

Dozens of theater performances. Or games. Or films. Or experiences. Or dreams. One at a time, like experiential channel-surfing. How many doors can I go through before I feel like I should take a break?

I’m staying here. It’s a living room — not my living room. A space between spaces. I look at all the doors. I’m trying to decide which one I need next.

Reality

In books and movies, virtual reality is often a single shared world, a metaverse where people meet, work, hang out. Right now, the Rift is more like a game console.

The moment I place it on my head, I’m all alone in a Zen garden of a living room — little rivers, a stepping stone path, a bonsai tree, the whole nine yards. But there’s nothing to interact with save for a floating menu of 42 different titles, nearly all of them games.

Some of them are mind-blowing. I lost myself in BlazeRush, a hilariously unpredictable game where you fling a tiny Micro Machines-sized car around a racetrack while sending competitors to a fiery death. I was a kid playing with my toys again — toys that came to life. It was 2 a.m. when I finally remembered to take off the visor.

I can say the same for Chronos, an adventure that had me literally looking around every corner before I dared let my hero venture out.

But most Oculus games are fairly shallow, at least compared to the hottest titles on Xbox and PlayStation. I wouldn’t spend more than a few hours trying them out.

For every EVE: Valkyrie — which thrusts me into the cockpit of a starfighter in the midst of a frenetic multiplayer dogfight and keeps me coming back for more — there are two ho-hum titles that I wouldn’t have spent money on.

Still, we’ve seen that Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo can sell millions of game consoles on the backs of a few games. It doesn’t take 42 great experiences — just a couple of the right ones.

THE FUTURE

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Hi, Mom. It’s me. I’m here. I’m somewhere else right now. Come join me. Right around the corner.

I’m outside. It comes with me. I can take these worlds around, now. It knows where I’m going, where my hands are, where my body is. I can be here, and be elsewhere. I can do two things at once. As I walk here, I’m walking somewhere else. I could be in an another body. I’ve “switched” with people, for an hour or two. I don’t like more than that.

In these glasses. Just glasses. I can open them up, or close them down. Let the real world in, or close it out. Allow the dreams to creep in just a bit, or all the way.

In virtual reality, you can’t see the wires. So why do they have to exist at all? In the real world, it can all disappear. Eventually, even the real world will seem like a dream. A blend, of the real world and the other.

I can’t even see the tech anymore.

There are so many places to go, things to pick from. More experiences than stars in the sky. I’ll never try them all. Just like regular life. But at least it knows what I like.

A small flick of my fingers, a blink of my eyes, and I’m gone.

Reality

The exciting and frustrating thing about the Oculus Rift: It’s easy to see how much better it can get.

Easy, because Rift rival HTC Vive has already shown us what it’s like when you can add your hands and feet to virtual reality — not just your head.

You can reach out and grab things with the HTC Vive’s motion controllers and walk around a room. But the discrepancy won’t last long: Oculus will let you do those things with the Oculus Touch motion controllers, coming this fall.

And there are other holes in the experience that Oculus will clearly fill. Like social interaction that goes beyond seeing which games my friends are playing. Movies to watch, concerts and basketball games to attend, with those friends in the same virtual room.

The ability to explore faraway places without ever being there physically. Or to learn to empathize with people of a different race, gender or economic situation by standing in their shoes for a day. To seamlessly blend virtual reality with the real world, instead of trying to block it out.

These are not just dreams, developers are working on all these things. They’re just not here yet.

You simply must try the Oculus Rift. It’s breathtaking. I just wouldn’t buy one right now — and there’s no reason you should feel the need to, either (especially with its archrival, the HTC Vive, also just days away). The longer you wait to buy, the better it will get. This is just day one for Oculus — and for the future of virtual reality.

  • References

Cnet