Samsung’s Gear VR design leaked

The first image of Samsung’s new virtual reality headset, the Gear VR, have been leaked online.

(Image courtesy SamMobile.)

(Image courtesy SamMobile.)

Gear VR is basically a more comfortable and durable version of Google Cardboard, though with one significant difference.

Both headsets work by putting two lenses in front of a customer’s own smartphone. In the case of Google Cardboard, that could be any recent Android phone. The Samsung Gear VR headset reportedly works with the Galaxy smartphones.

One problem with all the phone-in-a-frame approaches to virtual reality is that smartphone are touch-screen devices — and you can’t touch the screen once the phone is inside the headset.

Early versions of these smartphone frames, such as the vrAse and the Durovis Dive and similar devices, forced the user to take the phone out of the frame in order to launch or switch virtual reality applications. And the only way to interact with an application while it was running was by moving their head, or using voice commands.

Google Cardboard addressed this problem with a button on the side of the case — a little magnet that send’s a signal to the phone’s built-in compass. Users can interact with the virtual applications by clicking the button. So, to choose from a menu of option, a user would turn their head until they were looking at the one they wanted, then click the button to select it. There is also an NFC chip to tell the phone when its in the frame and should be running in virtual reality mode.

The Gear VR seems to be taking a more technically advanced approach. The phone plugs into the frame via a USB port, and there’s a small touch pad along the right side of the frame that acts as a controller.

According to SamMobile, Samsung will officially announce the Gear VR at the IFA 2014 show in September in Berlin.

No price has been announced yet, but its expected to be around a couple of hundred dollars.

That’s significantly higher than the cost of most of the frame-based approaches to virtual reality, especially the ones that are just plain plastic holders with lenses, but lower than the Oculus Rift’s $350 price tag.

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • Rene

    I am not excited by phone based VR gear. Unless the phone has a ton of pixels in its display, one ends up looking through the screen door. Here is an example of that problem (see photo).

    • On the other hand, smartphone displays are currently improving faster than pretty much any other kind of technology.

      We replace our TVs and PCs every few years — but many people are on plans, or lose or break their phones, and replace them every year or two.

      So the pace of change on the mobile side is just astounding. The processors are getting faster, the screens are getting better…

      Plus, they’re fully wireless!

      For the first time in my life, I actually wish I had an Android phone instead of an iPhone so I could use Google Cardboard. In fact, all the stuff happening in the VR space is making me seriously consider switching platforms.

      One killer app I see for this already — and the apps are, in fact, already there — is for a personal movie theater. You put this on, plug in your ear pods, and lie back in your airplane seat and you’re in a movie theater watching your movie on a giant screen. There’s no motion — you’re sitting down in both places — so no nausea. And no need for controls because all you’re doing is sitting and watching a movie.

      • Rene

        I forgot to mention that the image is a Galaxy S5 1920×1024 display. You are seeing 960×1024-ish (one eye) using Lumiya to show the VW scene (that viewer rocks on Android phones and tablets). I had to down-sample the photo I uploaded because of file size limitations. In the 4Kx4K photo I took, you can clearly see the phone display’s sub pixels.
        The display has to get upward of 7680×4096 to get rid of the screen door effect. And yes, the improvements are amazing to see on phone but then so are the display for Oculus, Morpheus et-al. I believe dedicated VR gear has a better chance of achieving better resolution and lower latencies.
        I do agree it’s all a race right now and it is not all certain yet who will find the right tech specs vs. price points to capture that market.