You can get your first taste of consumer ready VR from Oculus today, but it’s not the Oculus Rift. Samsung and Oculus VR’s mobile headset went on sale today for $199.99. The Samsung Gear VR, unlike the Oculus Rift DK2, isn’t just aimed at developers, though it’s far from being touted as a VR device for everybody.
“Powered by Oculus and the Galaxy Note 4, Gear VR Innovator Edition gives content creators and VR enthusiasts a chance to get their hands on the first virtual reality experience powered by a smartphone,” the explanation on the store page says. “Early adopters can enjoy a host of new content experiences, as they also begin to create their own.”
These “content creators and VR enthusiasts” will also need to have a Galaxy Note 4, Samsung’s smartphone and tablet hybrid. It’s the only phone that supports the device right now. While the $199.99 price tag for the Gear VR is quite low, a Note 4 will set you back around $800, without a contract.
The extra mobility, the fact that it’s consumer ready right now and the lower cost - for those who already own a Note 4 - does make it a tempting prospect. And only being compatible with one device, at the moment, means that there’s consistency that the Rift won’t be able to expect. Games will perform the same across the board, with developers not needing to take into account different hardware. But with it running at a lower frame rate and relying on mobile tech, it’s not quite as appealing as the Rift.
And I’m not really sure if portability is really all that desirable for a VR device. When I’m sitting down in the living room or in an office, there’s no other motion causing a dissonance between what I’m seeing and what I’m feeling. On a bus or a train, or just generally out and about, there are so many potential distractions, particularly the motion of a vehicle.
No wonder, then, that it has such a massive list of warnings, recommending breaks every 15 minutes and preparing customers for potential nausea.
Still, there’s something innately exciting about what it promises.