Samsung brings wallet-friendly VR to consumers

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Samsung and Facebook’s Oculus VR have unveiled a new consumer version of the Gear VR virtual reality headset costing $99 (€88).

The new headset is 22 percent lighter than the previous edition and features improved comfort and controls. The latest model is compatible with Samsung’s latest smartphones, including the Galaxy S6 Edge and Edge Plus devices and the Galaxy Note 5.

Samsung said the new Gear VR is more comfortable to wear, while the side-mounted touchpad has been improved to make control of the device more fluid.

While the viewing angle remains the same at 96 degrees, the interpupillary distance - a measurement of the distance between the pupils that is critical to binoculars and other viewing systems - has been been reduced.

JK Shin, CEO and President of IT & Mobile Division, Samsung Electronics, said: “We see virtual reality as the next computing platform, and we are thrilled to partner with Oculus on Gear VR to set the standard for mobile VR and bring this revolutionary product to consumers.”

The new Gear VR, which was unveiled at Oculus VR’s developer conference in LA this week, will ship globally in November.

While a number of manufacturers are currently dabbling in virtual reality tech, the market remains in a largely embryonic state.

[Read more: Mobile VR headsets to dominate market, as consumer smart glasses struggle]

Headsets from HTC and Sony, for example, are not expected to launch commercially until at least 2016, meanwhile the Oculus Rift itself has been stuck in development limbo for several years.

Samsung’s consumer unit therefore makes the manufacturer somewhat of a front-runner in the VR market, which is expected to take off in earnest over the coming years.

Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus, said: “Together with Samsung, we've redefined virtual reality and created the best mobile VR experience available today. On Gear VR, people are playing immersive VR games with friends, sharing 360 video experiences, and teleporting around the world with photos and videos – and it’s only the beginning for what’s possible with mobile VR.”