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article imageSamsung debuts new Gear VR offering greater wearer immersion

By James Walker     Aug 4, 2016 in Technology
Samsung has debuted a new version of its Gear VR mobile virtual reality headset. It has a wider field of view than the outgoing model, allowing for a greater sense of immersion in VR content. The controls have also been revised and a darker finish added.
The new Gear VR was introduced alongside Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 at the company's Unpacked event this week. As previously rumoured, the device has been reworked to fit the new phone. It now connects with a modern USB Type-C port to be compatible with the Note 7.
The USB-C port can be used as a data connection, theoretically allowing external accessories to be connected. While no such peripherals currently exist, in the future Samsung could develop add-ons to extend the Gear VR experience. It's possible it could build its own motion controllers, creating a device to rival desktop headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
The new Gear VR is finished in a distinctive blue and black colour, replacing the bright white of the outgoing model. Samsung has also painted the inside of the headset black, based on user feedback that the old white surface was too reflective and distracting.
Samsung Gear VR for Galaxy Note 7
Samsung Gear VR for Galaxy Note 7
For the wearer, the most notable change for the updated Gear VR is likely to be the widened field of view though, up from 96 degrees to 101 degrees. While the increase is minor, it does expand the viewable region of the headset further into the user's periphery, aiding immersion. Extending content right into the user's peripheral vision remains a challenge across current VR systems. The wider the field of view, the more involved the user becomes and the less likely they are to feel motion sickness.
Besides the viewport, Samsung has also revised the headset's side-mounted input controls. The touchpad has been enlarged and recessed a little into the device, making it easier to find while viewing content. There's also a new button that takes you directly to Oculus Home, allowing you to quickly switch between purchased content.
Samsung has worked with Oculus to build the latest iteration of the Gear VR. In a blog post, the Oculus Team described Gear VR as offering "the best" mobile VR experiences "to people around the world." It noted it is compatible with over 300 apps and games already in the Oculus Store.
Since Samsung's last revision of the Gear VR, the virtual reality market has become more crowded. Recently, Chinese smartphone giant Huawei unveiled its own VR headset, targeting the same ground as Samsung does with the Gear VR. There are also rumours that Google is developing its own mixed reality headset, a development which could prove to be a major rival to Samsung's VR efforts.
Samsung Gear VR for Galaxy Note 7
Samsung Gear VR for Galaxy Note 7
Despite this competition, the Gear VR remains one of the most popular and most successful VR headsets. With a low price tag and large selection of polished content, it is the most accessible route into virtual reality for most people. It has gained positive reviews across its previous iterations. The improvements made with the new version are likely to extend this praise.
The new Gear VR is available to pre-order today for a comparatively low $99. It is compatible with a limited selection of recent high-end Samsung smartphones, including the Galaxy Note 7 and the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, via a supplied USB-C to microUSB adapter. Headsets will begin to ship on August 19.
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