Why is Samsung Gear VR different that other mobile HMD’s?
Listed below are a variety of devices that can be used for Virtual Reality with your mobile phone. With the exception of Samsung Gear VR you will notice that the rest supports a broad range of phones essentially becoming a jack of all trades, and a master of none. To clarify pretty much any Mobile phone add on VR HMD is in my opinion Google cardboard style if they have no other sensors / electronic features built in and do not provide any additional data to the phone relying on the phones built in technology. Also ideally not only should they have an extra sensor but they should also engage a special mode in the phone to run as a VR device providing lower latency experiences than would be available with the complete phone experience still running in the background.
HootVR – Is very much a Google cardboard-esque design in that there is no strap and for this reason could potentially get certification compared to several of the others mentioned that require a strap breaking a key rule of Google Cardboard certification. One of the key features of HootVR that I especially enjoy is that it is a laser cut design allowing for the potential for the design to be distributed should they so desire and allow for replacement parts to be cut where ever someone has access to a Laser designed for this purpose, i.e. a makerspace such as Hacklab.to. One key note is the lenses would still need to be acquired and there are a number of sources.
Dodocase – This one is pure ‘Google cardboard’ based on the same original popup design and even in the URL description mentions it. There is also no strap on this unit. The cardboard will get greasy and dirty eventually but does have beauty in it’s low cost entry point @ $24.95.
Knoxlabs – Still a pure ‘Google Cardboard’ design but upgraded to ‘V2’. One key feature of V2 is there is often a 2d bar-code to pass details of the design to google cardboard apps via a scan, and sometimes a feature call NFC (Near Field Communication) which can be synced by a simple tap. The Knox NEXT VR Viewer at $32.95 is the premium newest features in google cardboard supporting google jump, and special spacers to allow for a broad range of phone styles and form factors.
Homido – This one is the elite, but for all it’s amazing looks there is no mention of any additional sensors / any connectors for the device. Because this device has a strap it would not be considered for certification as a Google Cardboard device. After reading the 2-3 page manual it is clear if all the details are in there this is a top tier Google Cardboard design. At a price of 89.90 euros it is also one of the most expensive. The way the phone inserts it looks like it will hold snugly in place horizontally and vertically so should not require any special inserts to adjust for various form factors. Extra specs listed below including some great features to adjust for lens distance from eyes and Inter-Pupilary Distance between eyes. The mention of wireless is because this is strictly a passive device not requiring any additional connections, and also the option to add a Bluetooth controller for game play. One other additional note they have added an additional ‘app store for Homido with additional content’.
- – Custom made VR lenses: 100° FOV
- – Farsightedness and nearsightedness settings
- – Compatible with most recent smartphones (Android & iPhone)
- – Optical settings: IPD and immersion adjustment
- – Interchangeable face contact foam
- – Wireless
Durovis – At approximately 50 euros this is a little more the middle of the road, they are claiming to be the original hands free smartphone holder, however once again does not show any connectors to the phone. This one is more reasonably priced and while google cardboard-esque still would not be certified as they are a hands free solution with a strap. One special item of note is that in one of their designs they allow for up to a 7′ tablet. While potentially there may be more pixels available overall I think the extra weight would be a draw back and therefore would not suggest this as any direct benefit. Durovis also has the benefit of course of being a hard material that could be cleaned / wiped up if it got a little dirty, and would not be prone to the natural sweat and greese of the face. While they do make reference to head tracking, they also clearly state the sensors of the device i.e. smartphone and a lack of connectors supports this knowledge.
Samsung Gear VR – Each Samsung Gear VR is designed specifically based on the model of phone that will go into it. The S6/S6 edge phone fits cleanly into the Gear VR units. While I do prefer the S6 as the S6 edge has more challenging to hold sides as they are not straight they both work well. The Note 4 version one again was a specific phone for a specific model of Gear VR. This allows for very clean and clear immersion without any of the external environment or HMD internals showing when looking through the lenses.
In addition when the phone is inserted into the Samsung Gear VR a special Oculus Home environment loads which is essentially a playstore environment and home screen combined allowing you to purchase and play various content. When leaving the home screen you can choose on the left to go specifically into the full store, or on the right going into the full library of items already purchased / downloaded. In the center the main home screen shows suggested feature content from the Oculus store, as well as recently activated apps from your library.
When the Oculus Home environment is loaded with the phone connected it does use specialized firmware that is cleaner and leaner allowing a faster lower latency experience on these devices. The firmware is automatically loaded the first time you connect your phone through a voice guided process, which has you remove and install the Oculus Home software on your phone before procedding further.
In addition to the higher quality firmware and the specially designed optics / frame to fit a specific phone there is also additional sensors located in the Samsung Gear VR. These are higher quality sensors than are traditionally located in phones and add to the high quality experience provided overall by the VR headset. The sensors include Accelerator, Gyrometer, Geomagnetic, Proximity. The first three working together to create an amazing level of head tracking rotating 360 degrees both horizontally and vertically, and at a much higher level that the core sensors built into phones on average. The fourth sensor helps you conserve power by allowing the Gear VR to turn off the display when there is no face detected inside of the headset. These sensors are accessed via the USB mini port connection built into the Samsung Gear VR that fits into the charge port on your phone. In addition with the new Gear VR designed for the S6 / S6 edge, there is two specific additional features of note. One is a charge port that will only accept power from the Samsung Gear VR charger but could allow with a ceiling dropped power cord the ability to play much longer experiences nearly non stop if it is not an extremely high power demand experience, or potentially a greatly extended period of time in the case of a high power demand app. The other feature of note that was added is a fan / vent on the left side of the Gear VR (S6 model) HMD. This is designed to help cool the experience reducing the chance of overheat / condensation.