In collaboration with the virtual reality firm Oculus, Samsung announced the release of its $99 VR headset, the Samsung Gear VR, at the Oculus Connect conference this week. The new offering from Samsung will help to increase public exposure to the capabilities of virtual reality, as Facebook-owned Oculus prepares to release its premium model headset in early 2016, the Rift.
The new model puts the technology within reach of more consumers in time for Black Friday, and will work with all 2015 Samsung smartphones. Samsung’s previous model sold for double that of the new device and was also not compatible with as many phones.
Facebook’s purchase of Oculus last year was partially a recognition by Zuckerberg that VR’s potential was not limited to the gaming consumer. The new Gear VR is capitalizing on this with the announcement of a Netflix app, in addition to a new platform called Oculus Video.
Oculus Video will offer films from Fox and Lionsgate studios, as well as video game live streaming using Twitch. Both Oculus Video and Netflix will be available on the Rift, following its release. The Oculus Rift has been greatly anticipated by gaming consumers, but will also require connection to a gaming computer.
CTO at Oculus, John Carmack, commented on the appeal to movie-goers who may not have considered the technology for film viewing, “In many conditions the ‘best seat in the house’ may be in the Gear VR that you pull out of your backpack.” Users will essentially feel like they are sitting in front of a theater-sized screen.
Facebook first began releasing 360-video on its website earlier this year, which users could explore using just their smartphones. With a more affordable VR option now available, as well as a growing list of content from new media partnerships, we may be one step closer to the Matrix.