The new Galaxy Note 4 is a nice upgrade from your Galaxy Note 3. The new sensors (heart rate sensor, fingerprint scanner, UV sensor) are cool and might prompt some interesting new apps. The CPU is a tad bit faster and the 16MB camera is a step up from the Note 3. But what really shines on the Note 4 is the new retina-searing 2,560 x 1,600 Super AMOLED screen (515 PPI) combined with the Adreno 420 GPU which should enable high-end 3D games at super HD resolutions without dropping too many effects. And these eyeball-popping graphic hardware upgrades are what will allow the Gear VR to drop people to their knees.
The Gear VR is the virtual reality device developed by Samsung in collaboration with Oculus VR (makers of the Oculus Rift). The Galaxy Note 4 smartphone can be mounted inside the Gear VR device (which looks like a huge dorky-looking scuba mask) to drop the user in a VR environment. Unlike the Oculus Rift, which requires a PC for computations, the Gear VR is a totally independent system and will feature a focal adjustment, touch pad (similar to a mouse trackpad), back button (hold it down and Gear VR will switch to camera mode so you can see what’s happening in the *real* world), volume key, convenient focus dial, and high-frame rate pass-through camera. The AMOLED screen’s high refresh rate allows for “low persistence” screen refreshing – certain pixels can be blacked-out while you turn your head. This kills the motion blur (which generally eliminates nausea problems that are so common with VR devices) and combined with the low price, makes virtual reality legit and ready for prime-time. All of this in a package that will cost around $200.
Samsung knocked it out of the park with this one. Lest I dare say it out loud – I think this technology has the potential to become as big a hit with the masses as the introduction of the World Wide Web. Yes, this groundbreaking technology is *that* big.
But bigger than the Internet? VR technology in consumer devices will change the way we watch media in profound ways. Video games of course, will be totally immersive, but imagine how the movie experience could change with VR technology. In a typical movie, you may experience a scene where the character is walking down a dark alley. He hears a noise behind him and the camera whirls around to show a sketchy character ready to strike. In a VR movie (filmed with a device like a Jaunt VR camera), you would hear the noise behind you but would be given the choice of turning your head to see what’s behind you or continuing on your forward path. As Gizmodo put it, “movies would become less a story directed at you, and more like a world you would find a story in”. Not only will this change the way we experience movies, the movie itself will *change* every time time you watch it. To me that’s mind-blowing.
Here’s how people who have tried early versions of Gear VR described their experience.
“I got the opportunity to play with the Gear VR for a few minutes during meetings with Samsung and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. Within just a few seconds of testing the device, however, my stance was completely reversed. The Gear VR is a whole lot of fun… While sitting in a chair in Samsung’s shop in downtown Manhattan, I flew through the sky above the mountains in a hot air balloon, toured New York City from above, attended a Coldplay concert against my will, jumped into Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, and flew through space defending my ship against enemy crafts.”
“I watched a bit of 3D Coldplay concert footage, and took a very guided tour of a CG version of Tony Stark’s lab, both of which were good enough to give me small bursts of that “Wow wait where am I really” feeling. The 515 PPI panel plus minimal motion blur makes this pretty much the best VR setup you can lay eyes on right now. I experienced three different demos, each of which offered an experience that was well-suited for virtual reality. The first was a basic VR demo that took me from floating in outer space to the top of a mountain. The most impressive moments though, were a scene sharing a dinner with a family from a seat at the table and watching an acrobatic performance from on stage. The second of those was one of the most impactful VR moments I’ve had. As I turned to the left during the show, one of the actors looked right at me and mimed at me. I felt like he was interacting with me, and not the camera that was clearly sitting in that space when the moment was filmed. It was stunning, and I want to experience more of that type of media.”
“I was handed a pair of headphones. At this point, everything was black and completely silent. I was only slightly anxious. And then they pressed play. Immediately I was standing directly in the middle of a skate park. The sun was shining. There was a guy going back and forth over the shallow peaks and valleys directly to my right. There was no break in the scene as I looked left, and up, and all the way around behind me, and the sound remained true to the direction of his wheels along the concrete. This was a very real—like, shockingly real—3D transportation. It was a mouth agape, I-can’t-stop-giggling-out-of-pure-incredulity kind of leap. Then everything went black again. All of a sudden I was on the patio of a beautiful villa. Dave Mustaine—yes, the dude from Megadeth—was sitting on a chaise right in front of me, strumming on an acoustic guitar. A crystal clear swimming pool was glinting and gurgling on my left, and all around were the lovely trappings of a perfect California getaway (turns out it’s his home in San Diego). The notes he played synthesized with the sound of the water as if they were happening in real time, and again, the sun was out in full force. It was a recording—I know that—but it felt so true.”
“One of the stand-out demos put me in front of an alien on some sort of Moon-like world. The alien was looking at me and speaking in an unfamiliar tongue. When I moved my head, its gaze followed me. Its big and detailed eyes, combined with reaction to me as I moved, imbued it with a sense of living that was really cool. Spaceships flew overhead and drew my gaze behind me, leading me to look at some incredibly detailed scenery. The resolution was such that the detail in the lunar dust stood out with immense beauty, especially when I kneeled down to check out a rock in front of me. The rock had that spongy texture to it, like volcanic rock, with some large holes in it that went a few inches deep. The sense of depth in those holes and the convincing tracking made this otherwise mundane rock truly come to life in front of me. This was a moment of presence; I wanted to reach out and touch it.”
So I ask again, will this become as big as the Internet? I think we’re getting very close to VR breaking into the mainstream and the Galaxy Note 4 and Gear VR may be the technology combo that pushes it over the edge. By the time we reach 1500 PPI and 100Hz refresh rates, our leisure time will have been changed in unimaginable ways.
The Galaxy Note 4 will be available in the U.S. October 17, 2014 (pre-orders are open now). Gear VR will be available in December. A Bluetooth gamepad will be launched alongside the Gear VR. Here is Samsung’s official announcement released on November 12, 2014.
Samsung Introduces Gear VR Innovator Edition for the U.S. at Samsung Developer Conference
November 12, 2014
First Smartphone-Powered Virtual Reality Experience Available Early Dec. in U.S.
DALLAS – Samsung Telecommunications America, LLC (Samsung) today announced Samsung Gear™ VR Innovator Edition will be available in the U.S. early December. Gear VR Innovator Edition, powered by Oculus, delivers a fully immersive virtual reality experience on the Galaxy Note 4, creating an entirely new mobile category.
“Samsung is excited to launch our first virtual reality experience, Gear VR Innovator Edition. We are looking forward to working with developers and partners on building amazing, accessible Virtual Reality experiences, that help bring the immersion of VR mainstream over the coming months and years,” said Nick DiCarlo, Vice President and General Manager of Immersive Products and Virtual Reality. “Samsung is pleased to be joining the VR community and will continuously endeavor to bring the Next Big Thing in Virtual Reality.”
Leveraging the Galaxy Note 4’s 5.7inch high resolution Quad HD Super AMOLED™ display, Gear VR Innovator Edition produces stunning visuals and allows developers to design amazing 360° experiences.
In addition to an immersive entertainment experience, Gear VR Innovator Edition has potential for innovative uses for enterprise, including realistic training simulation for vehicles or aircraft, 360° views of scans for healthcare, and interactive learning experiences for the classroom.
Alongside the launch of Gear VR Innovator Edition, Oculus will make the Oculus Mobile SDK for Gear VR available now to all developers who register at developer.oculus.com/. Samsung and Oculus have been working together with a variety of partners to illustrate the potential of Gear VR including:
- As part of the Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron partnership with Samsung, Gear VR users will gain exclusive access to Tony Stark’s Lab inside the all new Avengers Tower.
- Cirque du Soleil Media presents a 360° live-action 3D VR experience, featuring an act from Zarkana filmed by Felix & Paul Studios.
- DreamWorks VR from DreamWorks Animation allows Samsung Gear VR users to interact and laugh with DreamWorks characters and content in a whole new way like never before.
- Harmonix Music VR takes your music library and transports you to a fully immersive, musically responsive environment, allowing you to relax in a vibrant soundscape and explore visualizations set to your favorite tracks.
- M-GO Advanced, a new paradigm for digital video VR applications, offers an unmatched interactive search and discovery experience with Samsung Gear VR.
- Protocol Zero from DENA enables Samsung Gear VR players to infiltrate enemy grounds undetected in blackout conditions with hi-tech optics including night vision, X-ray vision, and thermal vision.
- Temple Run VR is the latest edition in Imangi’s Temple Run series, challenging Samsung Gear VR players to run as far as they can through a perilous winter wonderland as they escape the clutches of Arctic Demon Monkeys.
- Vevo offers more than 100,000 HD music videos, live concert events and original programming that can be enjoyed in an immersive, full-screen theater experience on Samsung Gear VR.
- WemoLab’s theBluVR allows users to immerse themselves in the dream-like majesty of marine life.
Samsung Gear VR is powered by Oculus, and will automatically download special Oculus software to the Note 4 when connected for the first time. The Oculus software includes:
- Oculus Home – Your VR home screen and content discovery center, which includes a Samsung section
- Oculus Store – An application that lets you browse and download new content from the Oculus platform
- Oculus Cinema – A VR movie theater and cinema where you can watch your favorite movies in an immersive virtual environment
- Oculus 360 Videos and Photos – Be immersed in 360° videos and panoramas like never before from within Gear VR
Gear VR is equipped with a touch pad, back button, and focus adjustment wheel for an easy-to-use virtual reality device, while its flexible, lightweight materials make it comfortable for users to wear.
Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition will be available in Frost White and at Samsung.com, along with the Gamepad. Developers can pre-register to receive information on the device at www.samsung.com/GearVR starting today.