Samsung reveals virtual reality headset powered by a smartphone

Samsung logoSamsung announced plans to release its own virtual reality headset that will use its latest Note smartphone at a press conference Wednesday in New York. The Samsung Gear VR includes a set of headbands and a holster for the new Galaxy Note 4 to secure the phone to a wearer's face and will represent the first consumer product from virtual reality tech company Oculus.

The headset needs no wires and relies entirely on the Note 4's battery and the hardware in the mount, unlike Oculus's own Rift headset. The device tracks movement with an accelerometer and gyroscope, according to Engadget.

Samsung Gear VR

Samsung referred to the headset as a "virtual cinema" that would get content from studios including Marvel and Dreamworks. The headset will also be able to handle games and a slightly delayed video passthrough using the feed from the Note 4's 16-megapixel rear camera.

Samsung claimed that the inputs have a latency under 20 milliseconds, and the AMOLED display offers a 96-degree viewing angle. Notably, the Gear VR cannot track depth, so if the wearer moves his or her head back and forth in real life, the movement is not reflected in the image on the Note 4's screen.

Oculus Chief Technology Officer John Carmack appeared onstage to discuss some of the work that went into the Gear VR. "Completely mobile VR is a magical thing," Carmack said. "It's a hard problem to do well." Carmack noted that the high pixel density of the AMOLED display "helps kill motion blur" and that the software architecture helps keep a game's visuals smooth even if the device is overloaded.

"We have a custom kernel driver that our sensor talks to that cuts out hardware middlemen," Carmack said. The device has a "constant clock rate" that developers can optimize for, and it does not use power fluctuations to save energy or throttle.

Aside from the hardware and software development, Carmack told the audience that Oculus and Samsung plan to offer "Oculus VR Cinema" films, which will include previously released ones like Kung Fu Panda as well as "360 experience videos." The companies also plan to release VR-oriented games. "We're investing in the mobile VR ecosystem to make sure top-tier partners keep developing great content," Carmack said.

The device has no price or release date yet, though Samsung tells Engadget that the Gear VR will be out "this year." Oculus' own consumer version of the Rift still has yet to be assigned a release date, possibly as a result of the company's acquisition by Facebook.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Galaxy Note 4, Samsung

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