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I have decided I was wrong about Gear VR

mptpmptp Posts: 237
Brain Burst
edited September 2014 in Samsung Gear VR
I finally got around to watching John Carmack's keynote from Oculus Connect. I was totally wrong about Gear VR. I assumed that the benefits provided by Samsung giving Carmack such low-end access to the Note 4 were significant, but not so significant that it was worth sacrificing tens of millions of 2015 VR users. It's now clear to me that it is worth the sacrifice - simply because it is completely necessary to achieve compelling VR experiences on a mobile platform. I made my original judgement of Gear VR while watching the live announcement from Samsung, but I'm not too proud to admit that it was a judgement made too hastily. I won't be getting Gear VR because I can't afford a new phone so soon after upgrading from my old Galaxy S2, but I am now 100% on the bandwagon, and think that Gear VR might be the single most important VR device ever, after CV1.

I'm leaving my original post here for posterity.
I feel like this Gear VR thing is being blown way out of proportion. I quite literally shed a tear or two in frustration while I was watching the live-stream of Samsung's announcement, upon realising that you have to have a Note 4 to use Gear VR, and upon watching John Carmack's talk during the same announcement, understanding that the optimisations were so low-level that it was unlikely it would support any other smartphones ever.

I feel like mobile VR, in 2014/2015, has two advantages over PC VR. The first (and most obvious) advantage is the lack of cables, allowing an untethered experience. The second (and more important) advantage is that while very few people have a GTX 660 or better in their desktop PC, many, many people have a relatively new smartphone, and most people update their smartphone every year or two. So a good quality VR adapter for smartphones increases the potential market for VR from a couple of million high-end PC owners to hundreds of millions of smartphone owners.

When I learned that Oculus was co-operating with Samsung to release a mobile VR adapter, I was so excited, because it meant that we would finally have a guarantee of a good experience (since Cardboard, Dive, etc are pretty mediocre ultimately) for the masses. I bought a Galaxy S5 in no small part because I figured a Samsung phone would probably work better with Gear VR than other smartphones (but I naturally assumed that it would work with any modern smartphone, since that's the whole point of smartphone-VR).
Watching the livestream, it slowly dawned on me that Gear VR was Note 4 specific, and I wanted to cry.

Now, don't get me wrong, I understand 100% why this decision was made, both from Samsung's point of view, and from Oculus' point of view. Samsung sells more of their flagship smartphone and furthers their goal of creating a device ecosystem. Carmack is able to drastically increase the quality of the VR experience by optimising for the exact hardware of the Note 4. Everybody wins. Except the >95% of smartphone users who don't own a Note 4.

Gear VR was my golden hope to bring VR to everybody (because even CV1 will initially be a device only for those with the computers capable of handling it), and it shattered my dreams by restricting its audience to a single (albeit popular) smartphone. I understand why, but that doesn't lessen the blow at all.
I make things calling myself OmniPudding. http://www.omnipudding.com

Comments

  • GeraldGerald Posts: 1,068
    Nexus 6
    Don't forget that this is not the endgame, but the first step. I am sure that Samsung will introduce VR to their entire (big screen) product line in the future if the fieldtest with the Note 4 goes well (and so far it seems it goes great, given the feedback in the media and from developers).
    Now we have to see how big the VR market is - will 1% of consumers adapt VR or 10% or even more? Just for the movie aspect I think plenty of people will buy one. That gives small indies the fertile ground to build on and to generate business that as it grows more and more developers will want a piece of.
    Yeah S5 support might be great, but Carmacks talk at Connect made it clear that there are limitations with mobile VR and having just 1 device to work with should make it easier to stay within those limitiations while we explore what makes sense for mobile VR.
    check out my Mobile VR Jam 2015 title Guns N' Dragons
  • BurnsBurns Posts: 26
    Brain Burst
    I am very sorry to hear that. Looking forward to VR is such a great feeling and geting disappointed through whatever way, sure doesn't feel good. Maybe you could sell your S5 and get a Note4 instead? Maybe you are not going to loose that much ...

    Don't give up!
  • pixel67pixel67 Posts: 196
    It is a little disappointing as I also have an S5 and was hopeful that it would also be supported in some fashion. But even though i won't own a Note in the short term, I can't help but be excited about the doors this is going to open for VR in general and those of us that want to develop for these platforms. Mobile is the "Final Frontier" these days and everyone is dropping a flag in the ground to try and establish footprint. I see this limited first step as an absolute necessity in order to demonstrate the viability of the technology.
  • owenwpowenwp Posts: 672 Oculus Start Member
    Its only the very first trial release, intended for a limited market. Samsung will almost certainly include all those optimizations in future phones. And trust me, most older phones are just not cut out for it. Google cardboard is really choppy on most of the phones it supports even with the simplest apps, and Oculus cannot afford that kind of experience turning people off to VR. It has to be absolutely perfect for everyone who uses it, or this trial run will fail and mass adoption will never happen.
    Sanzaru - Programmer
  • DrachenherzDrachenherz Posts: 105
    Brain Burst
    Just a little food for thought:
    Sonys HMZ hmd-display line cost how much? It was at around 800 or 1000$ for the HMD alone, without a device like a playstation or therelike, and it was geared mostly at people who wanted to enjoy their media on a "virtual" big-ass screen, for them alone. Yes, it was a very niche product, but as mentioned before, the movie-watching aspect could be a very big system-selling point for the gear-VR-and-note4 combo, with the added surplus of getting ones toes wet with some VR-specific stuff like games or edutainement in the likes of Titans of Space...

    After watching two 3D movies on the DK2 with LiveViewRift (Avatar and Edge of tomorrow), getting a GearVR and Note 4 (with a contract) suddenly became quite appealing for me...
  • mptpmptp Posts: 237
    Brain Burst
    Gerald wrote:
    Don't forget that this is not the endgame, but the first step..
    owenwp wrote:
    Its only the very first trial release, intended for a limited market.
    pixel67 wrote:
    I see this limited first step as an absolute necessity in order to demonstrate the viability of the technology.

    Yeah definitely, and I'm only half complaining - a conservative estimate of 2 million Gear VR users is still a LOT of people in VR who otherwise probably wouldn't think of it as anything other than science fiction. But that number could easily have been 20 million if it had supported Galaxy S, LG, Sony, etc. I don't think any increase in performance is worth a sacrifice of tens of millions of early adopters.

    However, it's a passing disappointment. I know that this time next year we'll almost certainly have more smartphone VR adapters powered by Oculus, and in five years time Gear VR will be a device for the history books, replaced by the lower-cost, higher-powered mobile VR devices that are inevitable.
    I make things calling myself OmniPudding. http://www.omnipudding.com
  • GeraldGerald Posts: 1,068
    Nexus 6
    mptp wrote:
    ... a conservative estimate of 2 million Gear VR users ...

    I hope your conservative estimate will become true, but I would be surprised if we see that many Gear VR users in the first generation.
    check out my Mobile VR Jam 2015 title Guns N' Dragons
  • museumstevemuseumsteve Posts: 443
    Art3mis
    mptp wrote:
    and it shattered my dreams by restricting its audience to a single (albeit popular) smartphone. I understand why, but that doesn't lessen the blow at all.

    ...surely it makes no difference what the screen is? If they were to release a dedicated consumer mobile VR headset for say £500 then surely people would buy it, I know I would, so why does it matter what the screen is? Using the Note 4 just means it is amazing value for those that want the Note 4 in the first place.
  • mptpmptp Posts: 237
    Brain Burst
    Gerald wrote:
    mptp wrote:
    ... a conservative estimate of 2 million Gear VR users ...

    I hope your conservative estimate will become true, but I would be surprised if we see that many Gear VR users in the first generation.

    Oh I should probably have mentioned that I was talking about the first 'couple' of generations. Perhaps over the next 12 months (which will still probably be before CV1). Samsung will ship something like 50 million+ smartphones in the next 12 months, and it's likely that we'll be seeing a new version of Gear VR relatively soon-ish. Maybe 2 million was a little over-excitable, but I think 1 million is certainly within reach.

    ---
    mptp wrote:
    and it shattered my dreams by restricting its audience to a single (albeit popular) smartphone. I understand why, but that doesn't lessen the blow at all.

    ...surely it makes no difference what the screen is? If they were to release a dedicated consumer mobile VR headset for say £500 then surely people would buy it, I know I would, so why does it matter what the screen is? Using the Note 4 just means it is amazing value for those that want the Note 4 in the first place.

    An 800 USD piece of tech is something only the rich or the enthusiast will buy. A 200 USD piece of tech is something the middle-class and the casual tech-enthusiast will buy. So right now, it's essential to offset some of the cost of a VR system by leveraging the components already in place within the smartphone that everyone carries around. The reason I was a little put-out is because all of the modern high-end smartphones have similar specs to the Note 4. I assumed the benefits provided by Samsung to John Carmack when he was developing the software behind Gear VR weren't so significant that a general-purpose smartphone adapter couldn't have been created.

    However, I just got around to watching his keynote, and am 100% convinced that I was wrong. I'm still sad because I can't justify selling my S5 and buying a Note 4 + Gear VR, so I'll have to wait a generation or two, but it's now clear to me that convincing VR couldn't have been achieved (especially not with support for Unity games) any other way. I'll be editing my opening post to reflect my change of heart.

    If you ever read this John, I'm sorry for doubting you!
    I make things calling myself OmniPudding. http://www.omnipudding.com
  • GeraldGerald Posts: 1,068
    Nexus 6
    mptp wrote:
    Gerald wrote:
    mptp wrote:
    ... a conservative estimate of 2 million Gear VR users ...

    I hope your conservative estimate will become true, but I would be surprised if we see that many Gear VR users in the first generation.

    Oh I should probably have mentioned that I was talking about the first 'couple' of generations. Perhaps over the next 12 months (which will still probably be before CV1). Samsung will ship something like 50 million+ smartphones in the next 12 months, and it's likely that we'll be seeing a new version of Gear VR relatively soon-ish. Maybe 2 million was a little over-excitable, but I think 1 million is certainly within reach.

    ahh okay - yeah if Samsung add support to other lines aside of the Note4 I think we might reach those 2 million and maybe even more within 12 months. I was thinking of VR adopters just within the Note lineup. Has there been any announcement beyond that?
    check out my Mobile VR Jam 2015 title Guns N' Dragons
  • mptpmptp Posts: 237
    Brain Burst
    No official updates, but Max Cohen has said 'Gear VR is our first mobile VR product - there will be a lot more coming down the line', and I don't think we'll be waiting 12 months before any official announcements. I think mobile VR is going to be mainstream VR. Only gamers and enthusiasts will bother shelling out for a computer powerful enough to handle the Rift. (But I think that there will be many, many enthusiasts, since mobile VR is already so damn cool)

    That said he also said in no uncertain terms that the Note 4 is considered the 'lowest bar' to provide great mobile VR, and that there won't be any backwards compatibility. So it sounds like future phones might work with Gear VR, but older phones just won't.
    I make things calling myself OmniPudding. http://www.omnipudding.com
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