The virtual reality (VR) wars are starting to heat up, with HTC announcing earlier today that it is slashing the price of its Vive VR headset from $800 to $600 — a month after Facebook scythed prices for the Oculus Rift headset and Oculus Touch controller.
But VR remains very much a niche medium, and we’ve yet to fully understand how — or even if — it will infiltrate the mainstream consciousness, beyond gaming.
One conduit through which VR could prove its worth is health care, where simulations are able to provide surgeons with vital training. And now Samsung has just announced the official launch of Relúmĭno, an application to help those with visual impairments see more clearly.
A product of C-Lab, Samsung’s in-house incubator of sorts that gives employees a chance to develop new ideas separate from their core duties, Relúmĭno was first showcased alongside a handful of other VR / AR projects at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona earlier this year. The app works in conjunction with the Gear VR, meaning the user plugs their Galaxy smartphone into the headset and their phone serves as the display and processor.
Relúmĭno effectively brings a new level of clarity to TV, books, artwork, and other real-world objects. The rear camera on the smartphone is the “eyes” of the Gear VR (and thus the person wearing it), and the app can magnify specific areas, highlight an image outline, or adjust color contrasts and brightness. Though it could be used in an outdoor setting, Samsung cautions against this for safety reasons.
Samsung said those with impaired peripheral vision — or “tunnel vision,” as it’s often termed — are able to set the parameters of their blind spots so Relúmĭno can remap “unseen images to place in visible parts of the eye.”
C-Lab projects normally have a lifespan of around a year before they’re either taken down or spun out into a standalone company, but Samsung said that it plans to keep Relúmĭno running as it currently is and develop related features and products. Part of this next step will entail producing “glasses-like products” that don’t stand out like a sore thumb — as VR headsets do in the real world. So what we’re likely talking about wearables that don’t scream “LOOK AT ME.”
“Relúmĭno will be the life-changer for 240 million of the visually impaired people around the world, and we promise a firm and continuing support,” said Jaiil Lee, vice president and head of the Creativity and Innovation center at Samsung.