Facebook’s Oculus Rift division announced today that it has created a special developer edition of the virtual reality headset for the Samsung Gear VR virtual reality system.
The Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphone and deliver high-quality virtual reality experiences for mobile users, said Max Cohen, the head of mobile at Oculus, in an interview with GamesBeat. The device is available for $200 (not including the smartphone) and $250 with a game controller.
“I think this is a great experience that we can deliver for under $200,” Cohen said, though its list price of $199 (GamesBeat rounds up all prices that end with a 9) isn’t really that much under $200. “This is incredibly affordable if you already have a Galaxy Note 4.”
The Innovator Edition isn’t geared for the general public. It is targeted at developers who want to make virtual reality games and apps. That said, just about anyone can purchase it at Samsung’s website.
While Samsung provides a smartphone with a high-quality screen, Oculus provides the headset. John Carmack, the technical guru at Oculus, worked closely with Samsung to develop the Gear VR technology.
“We are not judging success on this with the volume of sales,” Cohen said. “It’s a product for developers right now. We are trying to get this in the hands of the right people.”
The system shows you a virtual world, as if you were walking around inside it. The Oculus headset refreshes the images on the screen quickly, so you don’t get motion sickness. When you turn your head, for instance, the screen refreshes in about 20 milliseconds, which Cohen said is imperceptible to the human eye.
Such “low latency” and “low persistence” is key to the technology that will be in the final system. For now, the it operates at 60 hertz. That means it shows you 60 images in one second.
The Oculus Rift for PCs is also coming out at a future date. The latest developer edition, dubbed Crescent Bay, can display images with much higher quality. While the Samsung Gear VR can put 100,000 polygons on a screen at a time, Crescent Bay can display millions.
About 20 apps are available for the Gear VR, most of them games, Cohen said.
Samsung will have to do additional engineering work to make the new Innovator Edition work with other phones.