Samsung expected to release Gear VR virtual reality headset in September


Korean firm works with Facebook’s Oculus Rift to turn Galaxy Note smartphone into virtual reality headset

Samsung is expected to unveil a virtual reality headset in September that uses a smartphone for a screen and software developed in partnership with Facebook’s Oculus Rift.

The Samsung Gear VR headset is said to be similar to Google’s Cardboard virtual reality case for a smartphone that the company announced at its annual developers’ conference in June, but made of plastic and built for Samsung’s anticipated Galaxy Note 4 Android phablet, according to technology site SamMobile, which watches developments at the south Korean company.

The accessory is expected to be announced alongside the Galaxy Note 4 at the electronics trade show IFA in Berlin at the start of September, a traditional venue for the announcement of Samsung’s Note devices, which saw the unveiling of the Galaxy Note 3 last year.

In partnership with Facebook’s Oculus

The Gear VR headset will connect to the Note 4 using USB 3.0. The headset will use the smartphone’s sensors to track a user’s head movements and produce the virtual reality effect – which fills the user’s visual field with a computer-generated scene, with slightly different outputs to different eyes to create the illusion of depth. Whether there will be compatibility with other Samsung Galaxy smartphones including the Note 3 and Galaxy S5 is unknown.

Elastic straps will hold the Gear VR headset on the user’s head, while the side of the device has a touchpad for navigating the software within the headset. Samsung has developed software in partnership with Facebook’s Oculus Rift team, according to SamMobile, with a dedicated selection of apps built for the headset including Theatre, 360 Player, and Gallery apps.

A software development kit for the VR headset will be made available for third-party developers after the announcement.

Plastic instead of cardboard

Google’s Cardboard accessory for Android smartphones performs the same function, turning a phone into a virtual reality headset. The difference is that Cardboard, as the name implies, can be made by the user following some detailed instructions with some sturdy cardboard and an elastic band, instead of having to buy anything.

Samsung and Google are not the first companies to think of turning a smartphone into a wearable virtual reality headset. The Vrase headset does the same thing using iPhones and various Android smartphones, and was successfully funded on Kickstarter in October 2013.