• A great price-performance bargain for an exciting new consumer electronics platform experience
• A perfect new consumer device to inexpensively create a major league upgrade of your Netflix and Hulu streamed video entertainment watching experiences
• Great gift idea for friends, family, and work associates without breaking your piggy bank
• Light, comfortable headset design
• Build quality is several steps above most of Google cardboard headsets and the other entry level HMDs competing against the Gear VR
• Easy set up and configuration for every mobile phone user
• VR experience adds a new and entertaining dimension to your smartphone
• No motion controllers
• Only compatible with Samsung smartphones
• For some users, there is a noticeable lack of a complete HMD fit against the temporal bones and zygomatic bones to the sides of the eye socket
• Lack of Interpupillary Distance (IPD) adjustment mechanism may cause eye strain and headaches for some segment of users
• Requires a lot of memory on your smartphone
• Some level of app download dissatisfaction amongst the user community
• Many users are reporting overheating of their Samsung smartphones during their use inside the HMD
The Samsung Gear VR is without a doubt a stellar consumer product and the best in class mobile, untethered VR headset. It is the perfect VR entry product for non-gamers, casual gamers, and mobile gamers, as well as the mass market of consumers who are interested in prudently and cost effectively experimenting with VR before making a major purchase of a high end VR system.
That said, due to the Gear VR’s lack of proper adjustment mechanisms for Inter-pupillary Distance (IPD) a minor, though significant segment of the potential global VR market of smartphone users is cautioned to check on their personal optometric compatibility with the Gear VR HDM prior to purchase or use.
The Gear VR is a new consumer device whose one absolute use case success story appears to be watching conventional 2D movies and videos inside the VR environment. It definitely offers an inexpensive way to significantly upgrade the experience of watching your Netflix and Hulu videos.
Be prepared, however, to flag your smartphone and headset in for a ‘cool down’ pit stop during you movie session. Perhaps such pit stops are just a good excuse to make or buy some popcorn and some not so virtual ice cream. Yum!
Heat Overload of the Samsung Smartphones. Many consumers in the Gear VR user community are experience heating problems with their Samsung smartphones inside their Samsung Gear VR, heating that is often causing, after only 15 to 20 minutes of use, heat overload warnings to the user from the smartphone or an automatic shutdown of the smartphone. This is a major performance issue for this new category of consumer electronics device and it must be solved by the VR industry.
Two related nettlesome issues driven by the overheating process are that of headset fog and user sweat. It is reported that the temperature of the smartphones docked inside the Gear VR can rise to at least 45 degrees C. As a result, a good percentage of the Gear VR user community is reporting their headset lenses fogging.
Correlated with the fogging issue is that many users are sweating more than is comfortable due to the heat emitted by the smartphones inside the headset.
It seems likely that both of these bothersome UX issues will be addressed in some manner in the nexgen Gear VR units, as they are crucial to the continuing success of this tech platform for a good portion of the consumer VR marketplace.
As an overall commentary on the performance of this new consumer electronics platform, the majority of Gear VR experienced consumer community is rather uniformly saying the experience is “Awesome.” A good measure of the Gear VR user community is reporting that ‘even their parents’ were enamored with how remarkable the experience is inside the Gear VR headset. Now ‘that’s sayin’ something’ when mom and pops get in the tech game besides funnin’ around with emoji texting to seem hip to their kids and grandkids.
Imagine then how awesome the Gear VR will be when Samsung adds the new hand controller that is well rumored to be in the deep stages of development.
The Samsung Gear VR headset works rather seamlessly with all the Galaxy S6 and S7 smartphones, as well as with some earlier models, though perhaps not as well. The headset and VR experience can be supported by the Galaxy S6 edge, S6 Edge Plus, Galaxy Note 4 and Note 5.
Lack of IPD, Eyesight, and Stigmatism Adustment Mechanisms. For a significant minority of the global consumer electronics community, one major drawback of the Samsung Gear VR will be its current lack of an IPD adjustment mechanism to ensure that the pupils of your eye are rather exactly pointing to the center of each of the two eye displays on the other side of the binocular lenses.
Another major drawback to the Gear VR implementation is that it does not offer a comfortable way for many people with glasses to don the headset with their prescription glasses on. Why is this a problem, you might ask? Doesn’t the Gear VR offer a mechanism to adjust the distance of the lenses to the eyes?
Yes, it does offer such a mechanism. However, many users worldwide are reporting either a bothersome time donning and adjusting the headset with their glasses on or significant levels of discomfort with the headset on while they wear glasses and experience VR content with the Gear VR.
As we mature, our eyesight gets progressively worse. Even at the tender age bracket of 12 to 16 year olds, a market segment that will represent a major consumer demand driver for VR systems, fully 25% of these teenagers require some form of reading or visual aid. In the 20 to 40 year old bracket, more than 40% of all consumers need to wear some reading or visual aid.
The key parameter here is that of these groups, those requiring glasses outnumber by some 95% those using contact lenses.
So even if we eliminate from the equation those who can wear their contact lenses during a VR session, it means that of the highly attractive consumer electronics demand generating population of 13 to 40 year old males and females for the VR industry, nearly one-third of all these consumers that could purchase and use the Gear VR are not offered a headset integrated mechanism to biomechanically adjust the headset and it’s lenses for a comfortable user fit, let alone relief from eye strain and prevention of headaches due to an ergonomic disconnect between the user’s prescription lenses, which often address asymmetric optometric differences between the eyes of an individual.
This is a major biomechanics and ergonomics use case problem for the Gear VR that not many in the industry are calling out and it needs to be fixed a.s.a.p. for the nexgen Gear VR 2 unit.
Now for those critical of such headstrong revelations in a tech product review, let’s remember that the tradition of pointing out such peccadillos and temporary glitches is the sincerest form of flattery for such a ground breaking product as the Gear VR. For only if these intrinsic design and engineering flaws are pointed out and realized by all, including those designers at Samsung and their Gear VR tech partner, Oculus Rift, can the consumer feedback flow back to Samsung’s executives to help craft the market requirements for the next generation of Gear VR product features and benefits. Aren’t all potential users of such a great entry level product deserving of the opportunity to comfortably don and use the Gear VR without encumbering their individual requirement for wearing prescription glasses?
Lack of Proper Ventilation and Cooling. Today’s smartphones were not made with the engineering requirements driven by the power hungry graphics chipset and module needs of high end virtual reality experiences. Even low end to moderate VR content requires a fairly aggressive use case for the CPU and graphics chipset inside the water resistant, fully enclosed case of the smartphone, a case that one should recall does not have any effective ventilation holes or grills in the vast majority of smartphones available on the global market.
It would appear that the Gear VR designers took this into account when they engineered a headset industrial design that incorporated half a dozen different open slots on the frontispiece to the HMD to enable air ventilation. That said, there is no fan and no way to proactively and mechanically move the hot air that is conductively created from the smartphone’s backplate heating up considerably during the intensive CPU and graphics chipset use inside the fully enclosed, water resistant smartphone.
This is no small matter, folks. The need for smartphones to be designed, manufactured, and used by consumers as rather fully closed and water resistant electronic devices pits this against the requisite scenario of cooling consumer electronics down with proper air ventilation.
Unless and until this challenge is solved by the entry level VR headset industrial design and engineering community worldwide, you can expect the existing heat overload problems to continue to plague these entry level, smartphone driven VR headsets.
It is not just an issue that plagues the smartphone’s electronics motherboard and battery module. For the rising heat and eventual heat overload issues are a consumer UX bother. The intensity of immersion inside an alternate worldspace ensures that VR games and experiences can be quite taxing to both the user’s mind and head. Many thousands of consumers across the global VR community of users are reporting episodes of significant sweating with the VR headset on. Add a pair of headphone muffs to your VR rig and this problem just gets worse.
Fortunately, there are a handful of various technologies that are well known to the technology cognoscenti such as those as www.iwearthetech.com that are available to solve this problem. It’s up to the global VR design and engineering community to identify and adroitly employ them via out-of-the-box thinking, quite literally, I might add.
UX Glitches. The Gear VR user community is often enough reporting user experience (UX) problems with the “back” button that resides a bit atop the trackpad controller on the right side of the HMD. This turns out to be a non-trivial glitch because it forces the user to back all the way out of a title to the main menu and start over again to get back into the content and experience.
Other users are criticizing the side mounted trackpad controller’s demand on users to keep the arm and hand raised up against the HMD for good measures of time during the game, thus making their arm tired as well as causing what is perceived to be, in the face of a lack of hand controllers for the Gear VR, a significant user experience drawback.
You’re mobile dude – just put your smartphone in your pocket and your Gear VR in your backpack and you’re good to go.
Since you do not have much in the way of movement control other than the minimalist and sometimes buggy trackpad controller on the side of the headset, and since you are not tethered to wires hangin’ off the back of your VR rig, there really is no tracking area of which to speak, except that which is defined by common sense.
Actually there is one major tracking area to avoid. Don’t go walking around playing Smash Hit VR while you are trying to cross the street near Times Square in Manhattan.
There are modest sensors in the Samsung Gear VR, but they are sufficiently effective to track your headset’s orientation in space with minimal latency issues and to give you the ability to move your gaze from one element of the action inside your VR worldspace to another.
One sensor that the user does not even detect or know is there actually can tell when the user takes off the headset, and the sensor tells the headset to turn off. That’s a nice little smartphone-like feature. Good job, Samsung.
Not a whole lot goin’ on here, but stay tuned, as it is a logical, foregone conclusion that Samsung will drive hard to cost effectively incorporate as many head tracking and user movement sensors in the Gear VR headset as possible over the next two Gear VR device generations at least.
In the www.iwearthetech.com Review of the Oculus Rift VR system, which is a high end VR experience, the “Virtual Desktop” element of the industry-wide software stack was forecast as the ‘unsung hero’ of the VR industry as it matures.
Now, once again, we see a similar underappreciated issue play out before our eyes. We now focus on the undervalued Web browser element of the future VR environment. And yes, once again, too many industry participants and consumers are underestimating the vital importance of the emerging VR web browser software module to the next 5 to 10 years of VR industry growth.
To wit, we are now more than two (2) decades past the earth-shaking emergence of the Netscape browser courtesy of the Mosaic R&D project at the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana. How time flies on the Internet.
Do you realize where I am going with this reference?
Mozilla does! They have a Mozilla VR team currently developing this new browser technology.
Samsung does! They have developed and released a version of the Samsung Internet browser.
Who else in the professional ranks and consumer ranks of the VR industry realizes the gravity of this aspect of the VR experience for the next two (2) decades? Oculus Rift obviously does, but it seems their strategy is to form the foundational tech basis and let others drive what may wind up as the free or freemium VR browser space. Certainly Google is putting resources into experimental builds of VR browsing tech for their nexgens of the open source Chromium browser.
One thing for you to rather constantly track in the months and years ahead will be the “WebVR” browsing technologies and platform. Mozilla is one of the big bandwagon leaders of this new VR Web browsing platform. WebVR is an attempt to present the global VR industry with a standardized web browser that can support 360-degree and 3D video streaming, any HTML video from the web, and serve as a programming API layer for additional VR Web browsing technologies and feature improvements over the next few years.
At present, Mozilla’s corporate leadership is pushing the envelope hard on this matter by funding WebVR builds into their Firefox Nightly browser. One can immediately perceive that Mozilla sees the WebVR tech platform as a way to make up for ground lost over the past decade in the PC and smart device-based Internet browser war.
Samsung Internet is the company’s attempt to get ahead of the potential emergence of a madding VR Web browser crowd. Samsung Internet will help its Gear VR unit show off 360-degree and 3D streamed and recorded videos stuffed in a database somewhere in the cloud, permit users to immersively enjoy all kinds of videos, even 2D legacy videos, input keyboard text capabilities inside the VR environment, which is no small matter conceptually or literally, I might add. It also will provide voice recognition and response to more seamlessly enable VRuser menu selection and VRuser movement and actions to occur inside VR worldspaces.
Samsung Internet will also provide Gear VR users with the ability to import bookmarks from their mobile device’s Web browser, and manage their new VR environment bookmarks collection.
All in all, this WebVR browsing space is going to be absolutely essential to the foundational tech, API, game, content, and experience portfolio of the entire VR industry. You must watch this space.
Be WebVR there or be square!
If you permit me the use of two of the best existential French phrases ever constructed and what they bring to the Agora of VR life, permit me to offer the following combo reasons why the Samsung Gear VR is such a vital platform for the future growth of the entire virtual reality industry.
It is quite possible that the ‘raison d’être’ and ‘joie de vivre’ of the Samsung Gear VR is to perform its all-important experimental theater or stage role as the inexpensive and readily adoptable mass market user platform for which the VR industry applications, content, and experience industry ply their innovations in an attempt to figure out what the human race prefers to do with VR, what apps we really like, what types of VR content and entertainment will truly draw the masses, and what specific forms of industry specific activities in VR are more efficient and profitable than in our existing 2D computer-aided Internet-driven world.
In this respect, we are now starting to see the leading edge emergence of a number of different sunbstantive categories of VR titles, categories that will live on and grow with great economic force for many decades past the publication of this review.
From the sensory fog of mass market experimentation on the Samsung Gear VR platform, we now see the veil of VR fog lift just enough to reveal the following categories of VR titles, categories that you’ll very likely see in the year 2025 as well as now, just livin’ much larger lives en masse ten years from now than they do now:
• Film/Movie Watching App: Think access to Netflix (free w/ subscription) and Hulu VR (w/ USD7.99/month subscription with ads or USD11.99/month subscription without ads), but with the privacy and immersive focus enabled by the VR headset on your noggin’
• Viewing App for Both Live-streamed and Recorded Immersive Sports: Think NextVR (free) where you are remote viewing of football games and basketball games from the most expensive and unattainable seats in the stadium and arena, the coaches view at midfield and the well noted Jack Nicholson view from halfcourt at a Lakers’ game
• Web Browser App: Think WebVR (in beta) and Samsung Internet (free) enabled access to a yet to be truly felt, inbound tsunami of titles and content of the VR Internet of the future
• Free Roaming Creative Exploration Apps: Think Titans of Space (free), wherein you can explore the universe from the view of galactic grandeur
• Ad Hoc Teleported Tourism Apps: Think Streetview VR (free), which permits you to immersively visit panoramic photo views of what will eventually by thousands by hundreds of thousands of consumer demand driven and tourism driven specific locations of interest around the world
• Social Experience Apps: Think AltVR (free) . . . . . .
• Art Experience Apps: Think Night Café (free) which is a demonstration of how an art lover can walk through and inside an historical or avant garde art work such as van Gough’s famous sunflower and self-portrait paintings
• Games: Think Smash Hit VR (free) which shows off the transition of a classic smartphone game to the world of VR and Anshar Wars 2 ($9.99), an example of a space shooter game
• Puzzle Apps: Think Esper ($4.99) and Esper 2 ($9.99)
• Performance Apps: Think Cirque du Soleil, Inside the Box of Kurios (free), which gives you a pseudo ‘private performance’ immersion into the world of that famous coterie of exotic physical performance artistes
• Short Film Apps: Think Rose (free) and Invasion (free), which show off the entertainment opportunities for CG animated short films and
• Man on the Street Scene Apps: Think VRSE (free) which demonstrates how a VRuser can immersively experience some tangible measure of presence at an event such as a newsworthy town hall gathering occurring thousands of miles away from where the VRuser lives, no matter whether the event is a recording of a past event that is stored in a database somewhere on the Internet or your own file system or a live-streamed event
Each and every one of these genres of virtual reality apps, content, and experiences will live on well past the next decade and beyond. Experiencing these now on your Samsung Gear VR is one of the best ways to proactively view and absorb the essence of one major portion of the future of the global economy.
By dipping your toes into the shallow end or diving into the deep end of these VR offerings on your Gear VR headset, you’ll be taking faster, better, and more insightful steps into your future in the socio-economic space versus those who wait on the side of the street and watch immersive actors in the VR play of life move into the next form and function changeover in the global economy.
Set Up, Configuration and Calibration
If you’re even within a few mindful meters of shelling out hard earned bucks to purchase the Samsung Gear VR, then it behooves you to make efficient use of your time and pre-read the Samsung Gear VR User Manual at the Samsung downloadcenter as well as the Gear VR Documentation available online from Oculus Rift. Reading these two documents prior to your purchase will properly appraise you of many major issues you’ll encounter on the road to your VR experience with the Gear VR. More importantly, it will permit you to re-experience the traditional ritual of excited holiday season kid firing up his/her gift as soon as possible after opening it.
Before even purchasing the Gear VR, it is highly recommended by many G
ear VR experienced consumers that you set up an ergonomic swivel office chair so that you can easily and safely traverse the 360-degree experiences of the game, unless you want to get in some rotary torso exercise time during your VR experience.
However, before donning your Gear VR headset, it would be wise to note the quick-draw McGraw battery draw down demands of the Gear VR on your Samsung smartphone inside the unit. As such, note the micro USB port on the headset. This is the little baby that will enable you to plug in your smartphone to a power outlet enabling you to use your Gear VR for a wee bit longer than normal sans heat issues. Just don’t swivel chair yourself into a Gordian knot made of USB cord. Leave that little maneuver for the proverbial hostage scene in an upcoming VR game or interactive film.
The set up of the Samsung Gear VR is pretty straightforward and easy. It should take the vast majority of Samsung smartphone consumers only 10 to 20 minutes to complete the procedures of a) connecting your Samsung smartphone to the Gear VR headset, b) attaching the horizontal main strap and the over-the-head strap and c) downloading of a few apps to start your VR experiences.
Making a few seconds of fine ‘eye-to-lens distance’ adjustments via the rotating grooved wheel at the top of the headset will help mitigate against any undue eyestrain.
One critical set up and configuration issue is related to the smartphone overheating issue. Powering virtual reality requires the smartphone to work harder than in most use cases. Many Gear VR users are reporting that if they initiate a moderate to intense VR session lasting more than 10+/- minutes immediately after a point in which their Samsung smartphone is already hot for any number of reasons, including continued use just prior to the VR time or even a hot ambient temperatures, then the additional heat load caused by the VR session pushes the Samsung smartphone inside the HMD to either recommend the user shut down the smartphone or it simply automatically shuts down itself. This causes a bothersome interval of non-use while the smartphone cools down to an acceptable operating temperature and a required restart of the smartphone.
For users expecting their VR session to last beyond 10+/- minutes, it may be a reasonable idea to make sure that you start with a relatively cold smartphone so that you get additional VR time prior to the smartphone reaching its heat threshold limit.
Price and Availability
The MSRP of the Samsung Gear VR is USD99 and it is generally available now through many different retailers.
It certainly is an exciting time to be alive in reality in order to experience the unreal!