Samsung has officially unveiled an updated Gear VR headset, confirming past rumors. It now features better ergonomics and design compared with the original 2015 release, and on top of which a brand-new controller powered by Oculus.
A Refreshed Gear VR Headset With A New Controller
While the new version is slightly heavier and wider than its predecessor, the field of view remains similar to the 2016 version at 101 degrees, compared to the 96 degrees that came with the original model. It also features improved distortion correction to reduce motion sickness, a common gripe with VR headsets.
The inclusion of an Oculus-powered controller isn't much of a surprise. Such a peripheral has been rumored for days leading up to the Mobile World Congress, after being first spotted in filings with the FCC.
Previous Gear VR headsets did feature some form of controls, but only minor ones, and they were flanked on the sides of the unit, so it wasn't exactly a user-friendly setup for extended usage. Now with a dedicated controller bundled together with the headset, Samsung is opening its mobile VR platform up to developers, letting them more natively utilize navigation and input.
"The Gear VR with Controller expands our VR ecosystem to help consumers get more engaged and immersed in VR content — whether it's games or videos," said Younghee Lee, executive VP of Samsung's Mobile Communications Business.
The controller itself features a clickable touchpad and keys for home, back, and volume control. Inside is a medley of advanced tech, featuring an accelerometer, gyrometer, and magnetic sensors. It's powered by two AAA batteries estimated to last up to 40 days per two hours of daily usage. Both the headset and the controller support micro USB and USB Type-C ports, and there's also a converter included in the box. The new hardware will work with Samsung's slew of smartphones, including the Galaxy S7, S7 edge, Note 5, and the Galaxy S6 series.
The addition of a controller parallels Samsung's Gear VR platform to that of Google's, since the Daydream View headset similarly comes with its own controller.
70 Titles With Controller Support Already In Development
Samsung collaborated with Facebook-owned Oculus to develop the controller for the VR headset, about 5 million have been sold to date, according to VentureBeat. Oculus says that there are more than 70 titles already in development, and that all existing touchpads will be compatible with the Gear VR controller from day one.
"We'll open up the Gear VR Controller SDK to all developers in a few weeks so they can start building experiences for the controller," according to Oculus. Interested developers can submit a request to receive an SDK and all pertinent hardware.
Yes, The New Controller Is Backward-Compatible With Old Gear VR Headsets
Thankfully, the new controller isn't locked to the new updated Gear VR headset. Oculus confirmed that it will be compatible with previous Gear VR models as a separate purchase. Support for third-party VR headsets, such as Daydream View, look unlikely.
Samsung has yet to reveal pricing and availability details of the new Gear VR headset. Thoughts? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!