Samsung announced plans to release its own virtual reality headset that will power its latest Note smartphone at a press conference in New York on Wednesday. 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 technology company Oculus.
The headset doesn’t require any cables and relies entirely on the Note 4’s battery and hardware in the cradle, unlike Oculus’ own Rift headset. The device tracks motion with an accelerometer and gyroscope, according to Engadget.
Samsung called the headset a “virtual cinema” that would receive content from studios including Marvel and Dreamworks. The headset can also handle games and slightly delayed video passthrough using the feed from the Note 4’s 16-megapixel rear camera.
Samsung claimed that the inputs have a latency of less than 20 milliseconds and that the AMOLED screen offers a 96-degree viewing angle. The Gear VR, in particular, can’t track depth, so if the wearer moves their head back and forth in real life, the movement won’t be reflected in the Note 4’s screen image.
Oculus Chief Technology Officer John Carmack took the stage to discuss some of the work that has gone into the Gear VR. “Fully mobile VR is a magical thing,” said Carmack. “It’s a hard problem to get it right.” Carmack noted that the high pixel density of the AMOLED display “helps counteract motion blur” and that the software architecture helps keep a game’s visuals smooth even when the device is overloaded.
“We have a custom kernel driver that our sensor talks to, cutting out hardware intermediaries,” Carmack said. The device has a “constant clock speed” for developers to optimize for, and it doesn’t use power fluctuations to conserve power or throttle.
Aside from hardware and software development, Carmack told the audience that Oculus and Samsung plan to offer “Oculus VR Cinema” movies, including previously released movies like Kung Fu Panda and “360 experience videos.” The companies also plan to release VR-oriented games. “We are investing in the mobile VR ecosystem to ensure that top partners continue to develop great content,” said Carmack.
The device does not yet have a price or release date, although Samsung tells Engadget that the Gear VR will be out “this year”. Oculus’ own consumer version of the Rift has yet to be assigned a release date, possibly due to the company’s acquisition by Facebook.