Samsung and Oculus have taken virtual reality and made it something fascinating, new, and reasonably priced.
Virtual reality is not a new idea. For $2 and a splitting headache afterwards, a kiosk in the mall I went to as a teen would let me play Quake 3 Arena with an awkward helmet over a mouse and keyboard. The aim for VR has always been to try and make the hardware affordable enough for hard-core gamers to consider a new accessory for their PC, but it hasn't been until recently that Oculus Rift and its kin have been even remotely affordable. Even now, we know anyone playing on a Rift or a Vive next year will at the very least need to have around $1,000 worth of gaming PC to enjoy the experience.
There's another kind of VR out today, based on something that hasn't existed before the past year or so. Smartphones are in more pockets than any other kind of computer on the planet, and these tiny computers with amazing displays and continuously improving graphics experiences are capable of so much more than just checking Facebook. In a partnership with Oculus, the folks at Samsung have worked to create an active VR environment with its own dedicated store and user experience. You slide your new Samsung phone into the casing, and the smartphone interface is replaced with a unique virtual world full of incredible, unique experiences.
It's called the Samsung Gear VR, and it's the new standard for smartphone-based virtual experiences. Here's our review.