Samsung's new Gear VR is really a collaboration between Samsung and Facebook's Oculus VR team. Oculus VR and Samsung had been working together on the displays in the Oculus Rift, but Samsung also wanted to jump into their own mobile virtual reality devices. A partnership with Oculus just made sense.
"When we met with [Samsung,] they said 'Actually, we're happy to support VR in your products with screen technology, but we also think there's an opportunity on mobile,' and they brought the first prototype [of Gear VR] to the table," said Brendan Iribe, CEO at Oculus VR. "They said they'd been working on it a while, and we asked how long, and they said 'Oh a few months,' so it was when we made all this noise worldwide at CES that they decided to get involved. We took it back to the lab, their prototype, and played with it a little bit, and an idea came to us. The sensor inside of a phone is just not good enough to deliver great VR; it's not fast enough, it's not accurate enough, etc. But what if we glued the sensor from the DK1 [initial developer prototype of Oculus Rift] on the side of this thing and jacked it into the USB port? Lo and behold, we started to see really promising results.
TechCrunch sat down with Iribe and really dove into everything that went into the Gear VR. Iribe said the folks at Oculus didn't think that VR would work on the mobile side. Their devices had been powered by desktop-level hardware. But they were willing to take a shot, and they found that it could be done with a little bit of tweaking. Big names like John Carmack and Max Cohen got involved once Oculus decided that mobile VR was something that could be done. "We showed it to John Carmack, and he got super excited and said basically 'I think there's real potential here and I'd like to dedicate my next few years to making this a reality because I really believe in the whole mobile VR untethered world,'" Iribe said.
What followed was hardware and software improvements that led to the Samsung Gear VR that was unveiled yesterday. The Gear VR is still an early-adopter-type project, not aimed at the mass market yet. It surely won't be long before Samsung and Oculus' roll it out to a wider audience, though. Head over to TechCrunch to read the full story on Oculus role with the Gear VR. It's pretty interesting stuff, especially if you're in the mood for finding out how things work.