Tag Archives: gear

Samsung Gear VR to Test Virtual Reality’s Mass Appeal

Samsung last week unveiled a consumer version of a virtual reality headset adapter that converts Samsung smartphones into head-mounted displays.

The move represents a first strike — ready or not — as top tech industry players begin to push virtual reality hardware into consumer markets.

Taking what they learned from the developer version of the headset, launched last fall, Samsung and partner Oculus VR have imparted several improvements to the consumer version of Gear VR.

Compared to the previous Gear VR Innovator Edition, the consumer version of the headset weighs about 22 percent less. Samsung has improved the GearVR’s touchpad to afford wearers greater control, and the company also added foam to the headset to make for a more comfortable, contour-conforming fit.

Rounding out the list of improvements to the Gear VR is its price. The consumer version of the headset will sell for US$99 — half the price of the Innovator Edition.

Making Headway Through Low Overhead

The Gear VR is slated for a November release window, right around the time customers can begin making advance orders for Vive VR: the full-fat VR headset from HTC and Valve.

Oculus VR plans to release its long-awaited Oculus Rift at some point in the first quarter of 2016, and Sony has indicated that PlayStation VR (formerly known as “Morpheus”) also will launch early next year.

The cost is going to be a more significant barrier for the platforms offering the highest-fidelity experience, like Oculus, PlayStation VR, and Vive — both in terms of VR hardware and the high cost of platforms necessary to run them (high-end computer, PlayStation 4, etc.).

Regardless of public readiness for virtual reality experiences, Samsung at the very least has distinguished its Galaxy line from the pack of Android products. Also, because Gear VR relies on a Samsung smartphone, the headset has an edge cost-wise, along with beating the rivals to market.

Pricing for the Rift hasn’t been announced yet, but Oculus VR’s Nate Mitchell, vice president of product, just set the floor at $300.

Although the lower-fi products offer a lower-price entry point, “these experiences will have more of a challenge in creating VR experiences that are exciting and don’t create user nausea,” observed Patrick Walker, VP of insights and analytics at EEDAR.

Beyond pricing, the success of a platform depends on compelling content, he said.

It will probably be a while before developers figure out which VR experiences work best for the broad consumer base beyond the highly supportive gaming community, Walker told TechNewsWorld.

“It took several years to determine what types of games work best on mobile devices,” he recalled.

Seeing Is Believing

As developers figure out what works for VR and what doesn’t, the market for the tech already is more conditioned for it than it was for other new tech innovations, according to Rod Martin, CEO of The Martin Organization.

“MP3 players, for instance, required an entirely new way to obtain and store music, and didn’t come with any obvious infrastructure such as the iTunes Store later provided,” he told TechNewsWorld. “VR just improves things we’re already doing: watching video, playing games, etc. So a compelling product with enough content should see rapid adoption.”

The GearVR and Google’s Project Cardboard appear to be focusing more on introducing the masses to virtual reality than more capable VR headsets like Morpheus and Vive and the Rift.

People likely will want more than an incremental gain from their 2D experiences, according to Martin, which is likely one of the primary reasons Samsung has allowed GearVR to support only its best handsets.

“I’m not buying a VR device unless it’s pretty immersive — otherwise it’s just an expensive hassle, like 3D televisions have proven to be so far,” Martin said. “People are going to expect something like the Holodeck on Star Trek. If they don’t get it, they’ll stick to their 4K TVs.”

People have been expecting high-fidelity visuals that pull them even deeper into the experience, but sensations like taste and touch and smell don’t figure to factor into VR anytime soon, beyond touch controls. Still, if the major players live up to half the hype, the burgeoning sector appears to be here to stay.

“Indeed, my one great concern about VR is that it is likely to become so immersive that a lot of people will treat it like a drug,” Martin said, “but that’s a problem for tomorrow.”

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Samsung Gear S2 Scores Points for Looking Like a Watch

Samsung last week announced the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic smartwatches at the IFA trade show in Berlin.

The product specs of the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic are the same. The main difference between the two is in the design of their faces — the Gear S2 Classic looks more like a regular watch, while it’s obvious the Gear S2 is a smartwatch with apps.

They run Samsung’s Tizen operating system and can sync with any device having 1.5 GB of RAM or more, running Android 4.4 or later.

Designed by Italian post-modernist designer and architect Alessandro Mendini, both watches are round and customizable, have various sensors, and come preloaded with apps.

Optional 3G connectivity includes an e-SIM card with voice capability, allowing greater functionality without a smartphone nearby.

Things of Beauty

“I like the approach,” enthused Ramon Llamas, a research manager at IDC. “First and foremost, they look like watches.”

Earlier Samsung Gear smartwatches “look like miniaturized computers. The aesthetics weren’t really there, and the navigation was pitiful,” he told TechNewsWorld. “These new watches are elegant and look like high-end watches.”

The circular look “is a smart choice for a smartwatch design, because the most popular traditional watch designs are round,” remarked Angela McIntyre, a research director at Gartner.

What It’s Got and What It Does

The Gear S2 (and Gear S2 Classic) has a 1.2-inch circular Super AMOLEDscreen with 360 x 360 resolution at 302 ppi. It has a 1-GHz dual-core processor.

The watch is always on, and it has a battery life of two to three days, Samsung said. It can be charged wirelessly.

The Gear S2 has 4 GB of internal memory and 512 MB of RAM. Users can access contacts, notifications, messages and email.

It supports voice input, emoticons and keypads, and comes loaded with preset text responses.

Other features include voice memo, Find My Device, power-saving mode, safety assistance and a privacy lock.

The Gear S2 comes preloaded with health and fitness apps and can display news, maps, navigation, weather information and the user’s schedule. It also has a music player and a gallery.

It is IP 68 certified, effectively making it dustproof and waterproof.

It supports WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 and near-field communication.

Packed inside the 11.4-mm thick Gear S2 are an accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate and ambient light monitors, and a barometer.

Smartphones Are So Yesterday

A rotating bezel lets Gear S2 users navigate the interface. Side buttons access various preset apps and functions.

The apps on the Gear S2 show Samsung “can utilize the whole watch face, which is still a challenge for the Moto 360,” Gartner’s McIntyre told TechNewsWorld.

NFC technology enables mobile payments on the S2 and the inclusion ofFidMe allows users to store digital loyalty cards.

FidMe is one of Samsung’s five global partners for the Gear smartwatch, the others being Yelp, Baidu, Apposter and CNN. Samsung is working with partners across various industries to broaden the applicability of its smartwatches.

The S2 can be used to control smart locks powered by UniKey and Yale Real Living locks.

“Samsung likes to be out on the leading edge, and their vision is an NFC wearable hooking up with an IoT ecosystem,” IDC’s Llamas remarked.

Calling all Devs!

Developing Tizen apps will be critical for the success of Samsung’s Gear line, said Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC.

The Galaxy S2 can connect to Android phones from other makers, which “is key, because most of the buyers of this watch will likely have Android phones,” he told TechNewsWorld. However, Samsung “has to work hard with specific publishers to bring them to the platform.”

Samsung “will have to fight for the attention of app developers,” observed McIntyre, “who are busy coding for Apple Watch OS2, Android Wear watches and Pebble watches.”

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