Samsung Galaxy Gear VR: A Portable Oculus Rift for the Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Gear VR: A Portable Oculus Rift for the Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Gear VR John Carmack VR 310x

If this doesn't bring about NetForce in real life, I don't know what will.

There's plenty of mobile news coming out of this week's IFA conference in Berlin, but Samsung just stole the show with its Galaxy Gear VR announcement.

Along with announcing the new Galaxy Note 4 smartphone/phablet, Samsung finally revealed the extent of its partnership with Oculus VR, the Facebook-owned virtual reality company that recently released its second developer kit (DK2). Dubbed Galaxy Gear VR, the new headset was developed by Samsung in tandem with id Software Technical Director-turned-Oculus CTO John Carmack, and the rest of the Oculus mobile team.

The Samsung Gear VR headset is more of an empty harness than a traditional developer kit. But when you add the new Galaxy Note 4 to the equation (literally, you drop the phone into the head harness), the Gear VR becomes an extremely capable virtual reality headset.

The Note 4 has some impressive specs, including a 5.7-inch, 2560 x 1440 Quad HD Super AMOLED display, a 2.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 SoC (with a 600MHz Adreno 420 GPU in tow), and a 3,220mAh battery. The display is a step above what's available in the Oculus DK2, which is a 1920x1080 AMOLED panel borrowed from the now-obsolete Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

The work done by Carmack and the Oculus mobile group was largely driver- and Android-related, including:

  • Allowing custom calibrated sensors to talk to a dedicated kernel driver
  • Enabling real time scheduled multithreaded application processes at guaranteed clock rates
  • Context prioritized GPU rendering, enabling asynchronous time warp
  • Facilitating completely unbuffered display surfaces for minimal latency
  • Supporting low-persistence display mode for improved comfort, visual stability, and reduced motion blur / judder
  • This collaboration is exclusive to the Galaxy Note 4 (no S5 or Note 3 owners allowed!), but it's likely telling of what direction Oculus is moving in with its own Rift consumer release. The Note 4's 1440p display, or some iteration of it, could very well end up in the retail version of the Oculus Rift, as could other Samsung-manufactured hardware. And expect Oculus to integrate any development lessons, or other hardware changes (different optics, etc.) into its own devices.

    The Galaxy Gear VR will be available later this year directly from Samsung, and from select mobile carriers. Pricing is TBA on the Gear VR, while the Note 4 will sell for a standard but unconfirmed contract price (my guess is $250-$300, since it's a larger device).

    Sources: Oculus, Samsung PR | Oculus Blog

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    Later this year? This year? A general-release current-gen VR device? Innnteresting. But what about content? My understanding is that what's available for the Oculus Rift DK(2) is PC, and this is Android.

    Pyrian:
    Later this year? This year? A general-release current-gen VR device? Innnteresting. But what about content? My understanding is that what's available for the Oculus Rift DK(2) is PC, and this is Android.

    Android is the OS for the Oculus "App". Combined, the smartphone, holder, and software will be seen as an Oculus display device for PC or whatever else runs software that can output to Oculus.
    So essentially it's no different than outputting to a current gen Oculus Rift Mk2 -- which already runs on some kind of Android OS internally if teardowns are to be believed.

    Unity and the Unreal Development Kit builds to mobile devices - it's little more than choosing target platform on build (...and scaling asset richness to its performance... :7).

    The software provided by OculusVR includes a virtual movie theatre, viewers for panoramic photos and videos, and an interface for the Oculus store, where additional material can be published.

    Ah, so you'll still be getting your content from a PC, in that case?

    Dropping a phone you already own into an inexpensive head set mount sounds like a good idea. But the Galaxy Note family are HUGE phones (which I guess is why they were chosen for this). My mom has a Note 3 and I'm surprised she can hold it to talk for more than 5 minutes. That's kinda limiting the install based for these. Also the Note 4 will not be just $300[1], unless someone is at the perfect point in their contract to upgrade and the Note 4 has been out for a long time. Then again, maybe they'll bundle this with the phone for less than the price off the phone alone, to get you to buy some games and VR software?

    I'm guessing this is for the few that will have that specific phone or are willing to buy it. I wonder if Oculus and Samsung will make another Galaxy Gear for a either another phone or a dedicated portable one will most of the guts from one of Samsung's phones. Or will the Rift, if it ever comes out, have a way to connect to a cell phone with MHL or micro HDMI? (Jamming a full Android system into the Rift will just make it more expensive for the people who just want to plug it into their PC, so I doubt Oculus will do that.) Either way, portable VR could help with things like physical therapy or people with disabilities, so I'm hoping it doesn't cost half a grand to cut the cords.

    [1] Devin seems really optimistic here or has a cell carrier who's full time goal isn't to gouge money out of its customers.

    Pyrian:
    Ah, so you'll still be getting your content from a PC, in that case?

    I doubt the Note4 HDMI takes video *in*.
    So no; The VR experiences will run on the Note itself, just like with existing similar insert-you-own-phone devices (...and as such be truly portable).
    You CAN use something like miracast to receive video from another device, but there will be significant latency.

    You'll *create* content on PCs, though, if that's what you meant. :7

    This reminds me of Oculus VR's previous claim that cheaper VR would dilute the product value and possibly turn away prospective customers when they see a lower quality product. This smells of hypocrisy on the part of Oculus. What's cheaper than building a harness to drop a phone in for your VR? No custom hardware - just a harness to drop a phone with preloaded apps. I can't speak for the picture quality in comparison to the original Rift or Sony's own product, but I could imagine that the quality of visuals would simply not be the same. For example, the same redundancies for motion sickness, nausea, and headaches would not be in place for a phone due to it being a different shaped screen. For those who might have tried the harness, is the picture quality up to snuff, is the level of immersion there? Or is this something akin to converted 3D in movies?

    Somebloke:

    Pyrian:
    Ah, so you'll still be getting your content from a PC, in that case?

    I doubt the Note4 HDMI takes video *in*.
    So no; The VR experiences will run on the Note itself, just like with existing similar insert-you-own-phone devices (...and as such be truly portable).

    In which case we're right back to having a bunch of content on PC, and the first current-gen commercial VR in Android sans such content, at least until such time as the content is ported over (certainly engines like Unity make this easier, but it's still something that needs to be done, and issues tend to come up, especially if it wasn't dual platform from the start).

    Am I the only one that thinks of the idea of a screen right infront of my eyes for all the heat and other radiation it projects to be funneled into them is not a good idea. Something tells me eye strain and damage to the eyes is going to be far worse than a normal screen kept far enough away to safely use.

    @RicoADF:
    The heat (...which is a problem) in an HMD comes from the user's face and breath, and the screen itself does not radiate much more than light - it's not like it's a CRT (I'll say nothing about the radios on the device, though, nor CPU/GPU heat).

    There is some eye strain with prolonged use, absolutely (the lenses come with a new problem, that has to be mitigated, for every one they fix; and until resolution gets high enough, we have the infamous "screen door effect"), but so there is with extended book reading. Actually, the HMD lenses makes your own lenses relax, to focus at an "infinite" distance, rather than a close one.

    @Pyrian:
    Yep.
    It can be hard enough for developers to support Mac and Linux - usually they don't have an installation set up, to test on. :P (It's still mostly an enthusiast developer base at this point. As such, though, they are at liberty to at least offer an untested and unsupported build, and just state that: "This may or may not work for you" - not that we'll see anything like that on the storefronts :7.

    @Remus:
    I don't know what you mean about a different shaped screen, or redundancies.
    The Note4 screen is the same dimensions as the one in Oculus' Development Kit 2 (5.7" 16:9), is of the same type of technology, and has higher resolution.
    The older Note3 display in the DK2 has a pentile subpixel arrangement (alas), and is overclocked for a higher refresh rate. I don't know whether the Note4 one does 75+Hz, nor whether it has full RGB pixels, (or whether it has yet done something about the "true black smearing" indigenous to Samsung's OLED displays so far), but it has to be an improvement at least in that it's 1440p over the DK2's 1080p (...and a likely candidate for Oculus' first Consumer Version).
    It is certainly better than the light-leaky, image-retention-prone, lowres LCD in the DK1.
    (The one inherent optical downside to the drop-in-phone solution, would be that the phone (and DK2) has the front glass, which can sometimes reflect the reflection of the screen in the lens)

    "Cheap" as in "low cost", does not necessarily have to mean "low quality" - heck, Oculus themselves are talking about selling at cost and make their profits on software and services.
    Besides; If you count the price of the Note4, the GearVR may not seem so cheap...
    If one were to run with the attitude you suggested; Consider that at its core, the Rift hardware is just a screen, a skimask, two lenses, and a gyro - add your own computer.

    It is the "getting it right" that makes the experience good, and Oculus seems to think that their involvment will help with that, here. There are other teams (not Sony), jumping the bandwagon, who do not appear to know what they are doing, and they are the ones who may sour VR for for somebody whose first contact is a sub-standard solution (...where "solution" is much more than just the hardware).

    The deal was, as far as anybody can tell; "You give us preferrential access to your displays, and we share what we have learned and developed, to help you with a HMD of your own". The GearVR has its own high-update-rate calibrated IMU (accelerometers, etc), not relying on the ones in the phone, and the software and methods is what Oculus has come up with after months of experimentation (EDIT: ...for all that it is yet by no means perfected). (If this lets Oculus have Samsung construct custom, maybe suitably curved, screens for them, I'm all for it.)

    The IMU offers DK1 level headtracking (i.e. only rotational).

    If the screen's refresh rate is high enough for it to work without flicker being noticeable, the OLED display should, like DK2, offer low persistance mode (strobing the image, for smoother perceived motion)

    ... given this; The barrel distortion, with chromatic abberation correction, sensor fusion, motion prediction, and "timewarp" (late motion adjustment), should be just the same as with a Rift, as used with a PC, but without the positional tracking added with DK2; and with graphics complexity tuned down, to fit the performance of the hardware.

    It will never be quite what you can do with a souped-up PC, but should still be quite compelling - heck; some were impressed with Google Cardboard and the many similar phone VR harnesses that went before it.

    I'd imagine it mostly used, by a small number of people, for movie watching and casual gaming, whilst travelling (EDIT: In something that has a moves steadily and stably, or between trip legs -- use in a car should be a trip to vomit city. :P)
    Future devices is another matter -- Even after all these decades, it is early days for VR.

    When Google Cardboard came out, I made a comment that apparently offended a lot of VR Troopers in this forum.

    Then the Oculus Dev Kit 2.0 comes out with actual cell phone hardware, and I made a jab at the previously mentioned party, and apparently I just wasn't "getting it".

    Now tell me, what about this is different than Google Cardboard? Is it because it's not Google? Is it because it's not made of cardboard?

    Tell you what, you can pick up a Durovis Dive kit for $60 on Amazon. Hell, you can even get a plastic version of Google Cardboard for a bit less than that.

    Just face it, modern VR technology is just taping a phone to your face. Quit acting like this is the dawn of a new era, some herald of a future where one can just mindjack themselves into a game and finally fuck touch your waifu.

    This is technology that's already existed for quite some time, and OR are just trying to make it a lot more consumer-friendly. This isn't anything new or special.

    Do we really want to spend hundreds of dollars to look like this jackass?

    Might as well grab your throat mic and force feedback vest so you can play Army Man Make Believe without the need of messy paintballs or painfull little plastic BB's.

     

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