We’re excited to announce the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition, a new mobile virtual reality headset using the Galaxy Note 4, created by Samsung and powered by Oculus.
Over the last 12 months, we’ve been collaborating with Samsung on the future of mobile virtual reality. The project actually began as an experiment to see if great VR was possible on next-generation mobile hardware. Oculus CTO John Carmack and the mobile team at Oculus were able to blow everyone away in an extremely short amount of time, quickly proving that we were on to something special.
The culmination of that work is Gear VR Innovator Edition, an add-on to the new Samsung Galaxy Note 4, using the phone’s GPU/CPU to power the device and the Quad HD low-persistence 5.7 inch 1440p AMOLED screen as the display. One of the best aspects of mobile VR is the completely untethered, easy-to-use experience: you connect the Note 4 to the headset, you put it on, and you’re in. That level of accessibility, combined with Oculus software to easily launch and transition between VR applications without taking the headset off, really makes the experience magical.
The Gear VR’s initial release is an ‘Innovator Edition’. It’s an early-access, beta-version of the device for developers and enthusiasts rather than a final consumer product. Content creators can experiment and build totally new experiences while users explore the bleeding edge of mobile VR as it’s being pioneered.
John Carmack sporting the latest Gear VR Innovator Edition at Samsung Unpack
John Carmack and the mobile team here at Oculus have spent the last year spearheading this effort. That time was split between developing a new Oculus Mobile SDK and optimizing Android and the underlying GPU drivers for virtual reality. Several of the key improvements include:
- 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
The Gear VR is powered by the new Oculus Mobile SDK, and also uses variations of the Oculus Tracker and firmware built into the headset for extremely accurate, ultra low-latency 3DOF tracking. It’s impossible to deliver a high quality mobile experience without this kind of deep end-to-end hardware, software, and firmware optimization. As a result, we’ve been able to achieve sub-20 millisecond motion-to-photons latency, roughly equivalent to the most highly optimized experiences on DK2.
The Innovator Edition is also launching with four new experiences built by Oculus: Oculus Home, Oculus Cinema, Oculus 360 Videos and Oculus 360 Photos.
Screenshot from Oculus Cinema
- Oculus Home is a simple interface for connecting to the Oculus Store, where you can discover, download, and launch VR content.
- Oculus Cinema is a virtual movie theater, where you can playback your favorite 2D and 3D movies in a variety of theater environments.
- Oculus 360 Videos and Oculus 360 Photos are experiences that allow you to playback panoramic content in VR.
These are effectively beta versions of these applications, and we’ll continue to update them as we go. We’ll share more details on all of the projects as we draw closer to the product’s launch.
Screenshot from Oculus Home
It’s still early days for mobile VR. Some of the key challenges include a lack of 6DOF positional tracking, limited CPU/GPU bandwidth with today’s hardware, thermal management, power consumption, and overall ergonomics, but we’re making progress quickly and the Innovator Edition is only just the beginning. Still, the experience on the device today is pretty astounding.
The magic of a completely portable and wireless VR headset is easy to underestimate until you have experienced it. We don’t have the raw horsepower of a high end gaming PC (yet), but there are valuable compensations that make it a very interesting trade off, and many developers will thrive on the platform, especially as it improves at the rapid pace of the mobile ecosystem.
At it’s very core, virtual reality is about being freed from the limitations of actual reality. Carrying your virtual reality with you, and being able to jump into it whenever and wherever you want qualitatively changes the experience for the better.
Experiencing mobile VR is like when you first tried a decent desktop VR experience — There is a sense that you are glimpsing something from the future. This is science fiction made real, and it’s only just the beginning. – John Carmack, Oculus CTO
You can learn more about the Gear VR Innovator Edition at http://www.samsung.com. The headset will be available to developers and enthusiasts starting this fall. The Oculus Mobile SDK will be available publicly on the Oculus Developer Center before the end of October. We’ll let everyone know when it’s online.
We want to emphasize that the mobile project doesn’t change our plans for the Rift or our commitment to (and love for) the PC. We’ll continue to push the boundaries of performance and presence on the Rift for PC, while making VR available to the widest audience possible entrance at the lowest barrier to entry by leveraging the strengths of mobile as a platform.
We encourage developers who are already working with the Oculus Rift to try the Gear VR for themselves as soon as they have a chance. We believe mobile is a key part of VR’s future, and we’re looking forward to seeing what you build with the device!
It’s been an adventure keeping this project under-wraps for so long, and we’re thrilled to finally share it with you. Now that the word’s out, we’ll have more mobile VR news in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
— The Oculus Team