Samsung has announced a new, incredibly cheap virtual reality headset. The Gear VR, which is developed with Facebook-owned VR company Oculus, will go on sale this autumn for $US99 (£65).
There’s just one catch: You need a Samsung smartphone to use it.
The reason the Gear VR is so cheap is because it doesn’t come with its own screen. Instead, the user slots in their smartphone and views the virtual reality display (via lenses) on that. It’s compatible with any of the high-end devices launched by the South Korean electronics company in 2015 — the Galaxy Note 5, the S6, the S6 edge, and the S6 edge+.
According to Samsung, the new device is 22% lighter than its previous “Gear VR Innovator” headset, which also required a smartphone to operate. It supports significantly more models of phones than the previous headset, which could either fit the S6 or the Note 4 (but not both) — and it’s half the price. (Samsung claims the new device is also “more comfortable to wear.”)
The headset was announced on Thursday at Oculus’ Connect conference, alongside a bevy of other new virtual reality products. VR versions of Netflix, Hulu, and Twitch are all coming to the Gear VR, The Verge reports. Oculus also announced a new virtual reality version of Minecraft which will be compatible with the Gear VR, according to Oculus CTO John Carmack.
Sorry I wasn’t more clear, Minecraft is definitely coming to GearVR! Cordless swivel chair play FTW!
— John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) September 25, 2015
Virtual reality, while highly buzzed, has yet to gain much traction in consumer markets. The Gear VR’s relatively low price-point and relatively wide compatibility options could help change that. Alissa Walker, a reporter for Gizmodo, saw one at the launch, and her initial impressions were positive. “I don’t think I’m overstating things when I estimate that this one product will instantly push VR into the mainstream,” she writes.
Of course, there are cheaper virtual reality options already out there. Google Cardboard is a virtual reality headset users can make themselves for pennies using their smartphones. But the two aren’t really comparable: Google Cardboard is quite literally made out of cardboard.
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