Samsung and Facebook’s Oculus VR unit are working together to create a virtual reality device powered by Samsung’s Galaxy S5 line of phones, Engadget reports. You literally plug your phone into the headset and you’re inside a “shockingly good” virtual world, the site reports.
Last week, a source familiar with Samsung’s plans confirmed the company is going to launch a virtual reality headset. However, the source warned, the gadget is mostly just a side project to test new display technologies.
The crazy thing — so crazy it just might work! — is that instead of having the phone attached to the Oculus headset through a jack and a cord, the phone slots directly into the headset and uses the phone’s cameras to over- or under-lay the real world and the virtual world. Here’s how Endgadget describes it:
Rather than having its own screen, Samsung’s VR headset uses your phone directly. It plugs in using an existing port on your phone (think: microUSB) and becomes the screen. The headset itself has built-in sensors — an accelerometer at very least — so any motion tracking functionality is offloaded from your phone’s processor.
The folks we spoke with who have dev kits are still running the headset on Galaxy S4 phones, and we’re told it’s a shockingly good experience. That said, the consumer device will run either a new version of the GS5 or potentially its successor — either way, it will be tweaked for optimal VR performance. The headset can be used with a paired game controller or as a standalone media device, navigated solely through motion and voice (we’ll discuss that more below).
Wait! Before you write it off forever as “one of those headsets that straps your phone to your face,” we’re told there are some pretty great benefits to using a mobile device. For one, the rear-facing camera allows for video passthrough. That’s to say, “You can see through the phone using the rear camera, which shows a video feed of the outside world to your eyes.” Pretty intense sounding, but a smart addition for making long-term use more realistic.
The deal is based on a swap: Samsung will get first dibs on Oculus’ mobile software development kit and Oculus will get the high-definition OLED screens it needs to make its products work from Samsung.
It could be a gimmick, sure. But anyone who has ever experienced the Oculus Rift headset knows that there is no going back — the 3D, the definition and the realness of the motion inside it make handsets or TV console games look tame and boring. Oculus investor Chris Dixon told me recently that he thinks some violent video games will be so real inside Oculus that people won’t want to play them, because it will be too emotionally wrenching.
And if Oculus’ game tech can be packed into something as portable and easy to use as a phone … then you can see why Samsung would want to invest in this.
Naturally, as Samsung is the single largest phone maker in the world, this would give Facebook and Oculus a massive new platform to dominate — making Facebook’s $US2 billion acquisition of Oculus look like a very good deal indeed.
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