LOS ANGELES — In perhaps the most significant move to date to bring virtual reality technology to the consumer mass market, Samsung has announced the latest version of its Gear VR device — priced at an affordable $99.
The device is half the price of its $199 predecessor, and supports Samsung’s entire 2015 smartphone line, including the Note 5, S6, S6 Edge, and S6 Edge+, which contrasts to the more limited support for smartphone models offered by the previous generation of Gear VR — making the technology much more accessible for mainstream users.
Early reports indicate that the updated Gear VR device shed around a quarter of its weight and is more comfortable to wear than the previous version of the headset.
An incremental improvement to the trackpad located on the headset adds tactile cues to what was once a smooth surface, providing directional input so the user’s finger will know where it’s pointing, while a new Gear VR Gamepad provides an Xbox-style wireless controller for precise cursor placement.
“While many are highly anticipating the flagship Oculus Rift headset release, the fact that it needs to be wired to an expensive gaming computer means it will have a much more niche audience,” Josh Constine wrote for TechCrunch. “But the Gear VR and other mobile headsets like Google Cardboard that people can carry around with them and easily share with VR n00bs are what will bring the medium to the masses.”
The updated Samsung Gear VR device is scheduled to ship in November, in time for the holiday gift-giving season.