Samsung Gear VR
|Category||Virtual Reality Devices|
|Developer||Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.|
|Announced||September 2014 |
Consumers: November 2015 
|Price||99 USD (October 2015)|
|Resolution||2560x1440 pixels (based on compatible smartphones)|
|Field of view|
|Weight||310 g |
smartphone, touchpad, inertial, buttons
Gear VR is a smartphone-holder virtual reality device developed by Samsung and Oculus VR in cooperation. Gear VR is, by itself, not a fully featured virtual reality head-mounted display, because it only features the housing for a smartphone, lenses, and a basic control interface. The device needs a Samsung smartphone to fully function, as it does not have any processing or displaying capabilities on its own. The first version of the device, Innovator Edition, was compatible only with the Samsung Note 4. The second version was lighter, increased interpupillary distance range, and was compatible with Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5 smartphones.  The Gear VR was the first virtual reality device released outside of a developer or early-access program in the year of 2015. Together with the launch of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in the August 2016, Samsung revealed a new version of the Gear VR.
Gear VR optics have 96 degrees field of view and the smartphone housing features several additional components. There is a number of sensors present (accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, magnetometer), among which is a modified version of the tracking unit Oculus Rift uses. These can be utilized by the smartphone after it is connected to the device via a microUSB connector inside the smartphone housing. This way, more precise rotational tracking can be achieved. The smartphone also handles the audio processing.
The user interface consists of touchpad, buttons and a volume key. In addition, there is a wheel at the top of the device to adjust the interpupillary distance. In contrast to the previous one, the release version of the device will not feature the micro fan that helped to de-fog the lenses. Instead, the new model uses a different material for padding which should have the same cooling effect as the previously used micro-fan.
The Samsung Note 7 version unveiled in the summer of 2016 features dark blue chassis, 101 degrees field of view, optional USB Type-C connector, a new Home button, a bigger touchpad. The new model is compatible with Galaxy Note7, S7 edge, Note5, S6 edge+, Galaxy S7, S6, and S6 edge smartphones.
Gear VR is a virtual reality headset that is used together with a small selection of Samsung smartphones. The smartphone is put inside the Gear VR and act as a processing and displaying unit. With a pair of lenses and stereoscopic imagining on the smartphone's display, the device can deliver virtual reality experience.
Company & People
John Carmack - Oculus VR Chief Technology Officer
Brendan Iribe - Oculus VR Chief Executive Officer
Peter Koo - Samsung Mobile Senior Vice President
- September 2014 - Samsung and Oculus announce their partnership to create a virtual reality headset that uses Samsung's smartphones.
- December 2014 - Samsung releases the first Innovator Edition aimed at early adopters and developers.
- April 2015 - Samsung announces an improved second version of the Innovator Edition.
- 25 September 2015 - Samsung announces a more affordable version of Gear VR is to ship in the autumn of 2015.
Ethical Issues & Health Risks
There has been no issues noted with Samsung Gear VR specifically, yet. However, some general issues connected to Virtual Reality Devices in general may still apply.
Possible health risks are anticipated, however. The second Innovator Edition arrived at stores with several health disclaimers. Among which Cybersickness, eye-discomfort, and excessive heat coming from the smartphone are listed. Samsung recommends users take breaks after 30 minutes of using the device and warns users that they may experience nausea. The company also advises against using the device while driving or being on a train or a bus.
While there may be some therapeutic virtual reality applications, Gear VR is solely marketed as an entertainment device. Its main purpose is to play and watch virtual reality content. Although Samsung is looking at applications in education and non-profit sector as well.
Public & Media Impact and Presentation
The early version of Gear VR was reported on with hesitation. The interest about this kind of VR devices started by Google Cardboard and the media and consumers alike were interested in what could other companies bring to the market. But the first and expensive iteration of Gear VR was reportedly not very impressive in comparison with Google Cardboard which can support wider range of smartphones.  The later versions addressed these flaws and news on the last version of Gear VR are overall very positive and the changes to ergonomics Samsung has made were welcomed.
The accessibility, affordability, and lack of wires are the most positively seen aspects. Some see it as a great entry into the now emerging virtual reality industry. The Oculus Cinema app is especially liked by many reviewers. Some impressed so much they sat through the Samsung demo several times. Especially likeable is the potential for VR video. Reviewers like the freedom, immersion, and impact a non-profit organization video, a live presidential debate, or any other VR video experience may have. Although the VR video experience of the presidential debate was reported to feel ‘glossy and fake’ and that it probably just needs time to mature.
There are still some concerns remaining however. Some reporters focus on the lack of positional tracking which is otherwise present in devices like HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. Currently, the device is only capable of registering tilt and rotation, but no leaning forward or backwards nor it can register its position in defined space, i.e. a room. The gamepad Samsung paired with the device was deemed very uncomfortable and actually going against common gamepad conventions. There are reported issues with the Samsung smartphones overheating and fogging of the lenses after longer period of use.
The new and improved model which launches together with the Note 7 line of smartphones has been reviewed by a number of technology websites. Engadget's author Devindra Hardawar likes the new model and praises the numerous improvements Samsung has made, namely the expanded field of view, the now softer foam edge, and the overall lightness of the headset. However, the author voices his doubts about whether the device will be able to compete with the upcoming Google Daydream VR platform. Tim Moynihan from Wired also welcomes the changes, saying that the new version of the headset "refines and improves upon the first generation’s comfort, sense of immersion, and controls". The reviews praises that the headset feels lighter and that the internal padding is now more comfortable. It furthers ads that the focus wheel on top is now more sensitive and thus better to control the focus of the image. The device contains no negative points.
We have not recorded any public policy that regards Samsung Gear VR.
Related Technologies, Projects, or Scientific Research
The development of Samsung Gear VR is closely tied to Oculus Rift which Gear VR shares technology with.
The controller to Samsung Gear VR has been unveiled at MWC 2017.
- CHARARA, Sophie. Samsung's new Gear VR controller lets you point, drag and shoot in VR. Wareable [online]. 2017, Mar 1. Available online at: https://www.wareable.com/samsung/new-gear-vr-controller-2017-price-specs-release-date-6665 (Retrieved 3rd March, 2017).