3. – THROWBACK THURSDAY - Samsung Gear VR
It sometimes seems strange to call something that happened just five years ago a "throwback," but if tech time works like dog-years, in the immersive space things can move so fast it can feel more like fly-years. So as I cast my mind back when I first unwrapped my Samsung Gear VR and plugged what now seems like a very old and clunky phone on its front, it seems like another world from the sleek experience I can get from an Oculus Quest for not that much more money.
This is why we've seen such a sharp fall in demand for mobile VR which finally caused Samsung to drop support for the Gear VR on its latest Samsung Galaxy models, although it held on as long as it could.
The Samsung Gear VR was developed as a collaboration between Samsung and Oculus. Although the Samsung Gear VR consumer edition was released in November 2015, Samsung had obtained a patent in 2005 detailing the use of a mobile phone as the display for a HMD. However, mobile phone technology at the time limited the degree of quality and performance possible. Samsung continued to research VR and HMD internally. When in use, a compatible Samsung Galaxy device acts as the headset's display and processor, while the Gear VR unit itself acts as the controller, which contains the field of view, as well as a custom Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) for rotational tracking, which connects to the smartphone via USB-C or micro-USB. The Gear VR headset also includes a touchpad and back button on the side, as well as a proximity sensor to detect when the headset is on.
The fact we seem to be moving on from mobile VR shouldn't make us overlook the contribution that the format - and the Samsung Gear VR in particular - have had on the ecosystem. Although far from perfect, the price point and accessibility they offered bridged the gap between the ultra-basic cardboard introductions to the medium and the full-blown setups required by the HTC VIVE and Oculus Rift. And there are still not many VR devices out there that can claim to have been sold out on the day of their release.