Samsung's Gear VR: A Missed Opportunity?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Samsung's Gear VR: A Missed Opportunity?

There was some very exciting news earlier today that struck me as a good idea to touch on further, specifically, the announcement of Samsung's plans to bring out its Gear VR system at the upcoming IFA 2014 event. Developed with help from Oculus VR, the device has some very exciting potential, but it may well prove a missed opportunity for Samsung as well.

The device isn't set to be a standalone device, but rather will be intended to connect to Samsung mobile devices via a USB 3.0 connection. From there, the device will use the smartphone's associated hardware—the gyroscope, the accelerometer, the processors and so on—to generate that virtual reality effect and follow the user's head motions. The device also comes with a “see-through” button that allows the user to, at the press of a button, connect to the phone's camera and essentially see through the device by looking out of the camera. That in itself poses some exciting opportunities and not just for gaming, either; the possibility of night vision or other kind of remote viewing capability is pretty exciting. Throw in the potential for augmented reality—imagine walking down the street with one of these on and all that extra information cropping up in your vision!--and the Gear VR is a very exciting development.

But it's also a development that has seemingly voluntarily cut itself off from a huge portion of the market. Now, I hold out hope that at some point the Samsung Gear VR will work with computers and consoles because of that really useful USB 3.0 connection in there. USB is so universal—that's what the “U” stands for, after all—that seeing the Gear VR work with other devices shouldn't be out of line. But if it doesn't, then Samsung really might have shot itself in the foot with this one. Why? Because virtual reality systems have a huge, HUGE, demand in gaming. The Oculus Rift is just one such entrant into this pool; Sony's Project Morpheus, Vuzix's VR920, the as-yet-unnamed projects from Microsoft and even Google's Cardboard are just some examples of companies eager to step into the VR field and work from there. But these are likely to work across a lot more ground than just Samsung smartphones and tablets, so that's a market that Samsung has pretty much left itself out of right from the word go.

It's kind of disturbing that Samsung would set up this downright amazing VR concept and then make it a walled garden to such a degree that a variety of quality platforms wouldn't be able to touch it. But there's always the potential that something will change between now and the IFA 2014 event, which is set to hit fairly soon. Still, it's an exciting concept, and one we may not have to wait long to see just how well it all works.