Quick thoughts on the Samsung Gear VR



A few thoughts after a week of playing with a product that is probably on the high end, of the low end, of virtual reality headsets.  Also our first time playing with VR period.  Worth noting I haven’t done any long watching yet, so these are comments based on many short experiences.

1. It is impressive how well it works.  You are, after all, just wearing a cell phone strapped a few inches from your face, and as you move your head around that phone, just going from its own internal sensors (probably especially accelerometer sensors), has to change the image it is displaying in a way that syncs immediately with your head motion.  Given all that, I think it would be understandable if there was some lag in the display, or if it didn’t quite get it right how far you had moved your head, or moved your head back.  And as far as this goes, it seemed basically flawless.  Which is pretty impressive.

2. You do notice chromatic aberration in your peripheral vision – this is basically the “prism effect” of breaking white light into its color spectrum, when you DON’T want it to happen.  And it’s simply the result of looking at the cell phone screen through a pair of decently thick glass lenses.  (So in other words, things that are supposed to just be white might have colored edges, for example.)  I noticed it more with “real life” videos than with simulated environments – I’m not sure if that’s because the simulated environments are created in a way to minimize this or because, as someone suggested to me, the fact that they already look artificial makes you more willing to overlook other oddities.

3. There is a “Netflix” app – at first I thought this was silly, because it just has you sitting in a room watching a screen play good old two dimensional Netflix.  But then I thought – one, actually this might be a great way to enjoy Netflix on public transit, and really make sure you aren’t bothering anyone else (and blocking everyone else out more, too).  Two… correct me if I’m wrong here physicists/biologists, but it seemed like my eyes were actually focusing *as if* I was actually several feet away from the screen.  Would might be much better for eyestrain that trying to watch your little cell phone screen held a foot away from you.

4. Other things that “break the illusion” – you can see the cell phone pixels.  “Real life” videos in some apps start pretty pixelated and improve as you watch.  And if you have any dust on either of the lenses or your cell phone screen you shall always see it.

5. The Samsung Gear VR has access to all the Oculus apps.  My sense is, there are not as many as you might expect, and this is still very much a developing technology.  Reminded me a bit of the Amazon Echo skill “store” early on actually.

6. Finally – it is interesting that “experiences” are rated based on how “comfortable” they are.  Mostly I was fine.  I did start to watch an Air Force skydiving video and all the camera whirling did start to make me dizzy, or something, and I stopped.  So that can happen.

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