Usually Apple owns the news cycle for much of the iPhone launch week. This year however with incremental updates to the phone (3D touch the exception), it demanded much less of the industry’s attention than years past.
A much more exciting story that grabbed headlines came from Oculus and Samsung. Virtual Reality is an old category that’s about to get a massive shift into the mainstream. Never before have we seen all the right pieces to the puzzle fall into place at exactly the right time. The most critical component of VR moving beyond the expensive specialized use cases and into a consumer product, is price.
This week at the Oculus Connect 2 developer conference in LA, Peter Koo, Samsung’s VP of Mobile, announced a new Gear VR (powered by Oculus) priced at just US$99.00. Admittedly, the Gear VR needs your smartphone to work, so the overall cost is higher. Those millions of owners of compatible devices have already justified their phone expense, so mentally they’ll look at this entry into the VR world as a $100 investment.
On the surface, it may seem like a strange decision for Oculus to lend it’s technology to Samsung, who will be a competitor to their own product, the Oculus Rift. When you consider the Rift will require a PC and expectations will be a price of $1,000-$1,500 and not until the Q1 2016. In many ways, the Gear VR will be the gateway drug that invites you to beg for the real thing. Oculus will be technically superior to the Gear VR, but for the average person, this introduction to VR will be mind-blowing enough.
The announcement of a Global launch instantly makes you consider if you could own a Gear VR and if you’d pull the trigger on the hottest Christmas present in tech. The first check is the device in your pocket and thankfully the list of supported devices just grew. The new Gear VR now supports all of Samsung’s 2015 flagship phones. That means the Samsung Note 5, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge or Galaxy S6 Edge + are all supported. It’s great to see Samsung work out a way of dealing with those curved edges and different sized devices, now supporting a physical switch to make sure the phone is held in firmly.
While Virtual Reality is about to arrive to the mainstream in the next few months, it is important to remember this is just the start of an industry. The event this week was as developer event, so was brutally honest about the current state of play. The numbers on the right of this slide represent what our amazing human bodies are capable of. It’s metrics like the fact we’re at 10-15 pixels per degree, when we really need to be at more than 10x that to really fool our brains completely.
Virtual Reality is the first seriously new mode of computing that’s arrived in decades, everything else has been evolutions or combinations of existing ideas. With VR, we really have the first opportunity to access information in new ways. It’s now in the foreseeable future, that the experience of not knowing something, popping on a VR headset and run a training simulation in the style of a Matrix training program. You may not be flying helicopters just yet, but it’s incredibly exciting to let your mind wonder for moment about the immense possibilities with this platform.
You can watch the whole replay of the Oculus event on Twitch.