Virtually Just the Beginning: the Past, Present and Future of Gear VR Content

on May 22, 2015
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Virtually Just the Beginning: the Past, Present and Future of Gear VR Content


You might find yourself perched precariously, sitting in a chair on the edge of a building in a post-apocalyptic cityscape as a murder of crows flocks around you. Later, you’re sitting on a rattling railroad, directly in the path of a speeding train.


This is the world of Gear VR, where it’s all about the wow factor, and bringing imagination to life.


First announced in September 2014, the Samsung Gear VR innovators editions, now available for the Galaxy Note 4 and S6 and S6 edge, have a gradually expanding list of apps and content that users can enjoy. But the Suwon, Korea-based team that works with content producers says they have only scratched the surface when it comes to the possibilities that the Gear VR presents.


“The first reaction when someone puts on the Gear VR is ‘Wow, I’ve never seen this before, it’s so real,’” says Weston Chirwa, a manager with the New Business Development Group at Samsung Electronics. “That’s the reaction we are going for with all the contents for the Gear VR.” Whether it’s under the sea amidst marine life, or sitting front row at Cirque du Soleil, or walking through  Korea’s historical heritage, Gear VR’s Oculus Store has a good selection of offerings that packs a heavy visual impact for the first-time user of the head-mounted display.


Virtually Just the Beginning: the Past, Present and Future of Gear VR Content


Chirwa, along with manager Helen Hyunjung Nam and assistant manager Dongmin Shin, spend a lot of time working together with producers, evaluating VR content and offering feedback on how to optimize content for the Gear VR. The goal is to create video and games that are immersive, visually stimulating, entertaining and comfortable for the user.


In partnership with Lionsgate, “Insurgent – Shatter Reality”, as described above, is a fully-immersive, 360-degree narrative experience set in the world of feature film The Divergent Series: Insurgent. In Shatter Reality, which puts the user through a series of mental “simulations,” the user can make eye contact with characters and experience two distinct, intensely gripping and realistic “fearscapes,” transporting them from the frightening heights of a crumbling Chicago skyscraper to the intimidating challenge of a massive, fast-approaching locomotive. In addition to their work with Lionsgate, Nam says Samsung has formed partnerships with other film studios including DreamWorks, FOX and Marvel, who are interested in making VR content. “Some want to provide existing movie contents through a VR application while others wants to create new content in VR,” she says.


After the Gear VR hit the market, interest from content producers skyrocketed. “There is great interest from content providers because it gives them another medium to avail their contents to viewers. We are seeing a good response with content providers. Most people want to be on board with Gear VR,” said Chirwa. “Gear VR brings out the creativity in content providers. It gives them the space to be creative. The viewer is able to see a 360-degree world, so developers can create contents that really wow the imagination. The potential is huge.”


When Chirwa, Nam and Shin are evaluating VR games and videos, two of their biggest considerations are level of immersion and the content’s likelihood to cause dizziness or motion sickness. “If the camera is moving fast, some people get dizzy. So we recommend producers to use small and slow movements. We also find that if objects are too far away in the 360 environment, it doesn’t feel like you are there in that environment. To feel like really being there, the camera needs to be very near the object.” Turning around and seeing a ghost or being suddenly confronted by barking dogs is especially startling in the Gear VR world, but these are creative devices that can make for an even more immersive experience.


Virtually Just the Beginning: the Past, Present and Future of Gear VR Content


“Another thing we are looking for is the quality of the stitching,” says Shin. “For 360-degree video, producers need to use several cameras and then the footage is all stitched together.” Shin adds that similar considerations are made for games. “Game developers really like to use first-person (instead of third-person). But we tell them that for an optimal experience, they need to reduce the speed of movements.”
Shin says one of the best games currently available for Gear VR is HeroBound. The game was created by Oculus CTO John Carmack, the man behind such popular games as Quake and Doom. “The game is well optimized for the Gear VR, he built it based on the capabilities of the hardware. I played it for the first time and I was impressed. It’s like playing a game on your desktop but it’s on the Gear VR.” Shin adds that he believes it is only a matter of time until big video game developers are creating Gear VR editions of their most popular games.


As fascinating as the Gear VR may be thus far, the possibilities for future applications are vast and varied. Some companies are already using virtual reality to market products. For example, major carmarkers like Audi and Lamborghini collaborated with Samsung to offer virtual reality test drives using the Gear VR. “It is going to move fast,” says Nam. “Before long, there will be 360-video cameras for consumers so if there’s a family birthday party, you can stream it to your relatives. We are only at a starting point, but we’ll have these sorts of environments later.”


Chirwa believes that Gear VR will take over the inflight entertainment experience, providing passengers with the chance for more privacy and isolation from the annoyances of other passengers. He adds that Gear VR will undoubtedly be a part of the Internet of Things revolution, with the capability of interacting with every other device in the house. The Gear VR has a see-through camera function which brings in the potential of augmented reality. There is potential to overlay information using the Gear VR, so you can look over at your refrigerator and see what is inside. “You are using the Gear VR but you’re interacting with the outside environment and you can overlay everything,” Chirwa says.


Thus far, the focus of most Gear VR content has been entertainment. But educational applications are possible as well. “We feel like the potential is there and future is very bright,” says Chirwa. “We are happy to be the first pioneers to be producing a product that is viable and above the competition in terms of what’s already on the market. The Samsung Gear VR has a 96-degree field of view. It is the best virtual reality product out there.”

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