Samsung Gear VR Heads to More than 100 Best Buys for Demo and Sale

26 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Don’t let me hit that pole!’ Amusing video shows mum trying virtual reality gaming system Oculus Rift for the first time.

YouTube user Jeff Cousins fitted the device to his mum, who is featured at the beginning of an amusing video commenting on the virtual characters seated beside her before cackling with laughter.

After Samsung began allowing casuals to test drive the Gear VR at their local Best Buy, the virtual reality headset will officially make its retail debut this Friday, March 27th. But while Oculus talks up 3D gaming as the device’s main purpose, other developers are exploring a whole different application for virtual reality headsets: a totally immersive pornographic experience.

After the mother states that she is ready to begin the game, entitled Cyber Space, her son presses the play button and a safety bar lowers in front of her. With few exceptions, I’ve found it takes but a quick demo on an Oculus Rift (or one of its growing number of competitors) for skeptics to realize how awesome—and awesomely immersive—the tech can be. That’s when the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition — powered by Oculus — will hit more than 100 Best Buy retail locations across the US (with additional locations throughout the year), meaning you’ll officially be able to walk in, test it out, and walk out with a Gear VR if you like what you see.

Innovator Edition demos have been available in about 100 Samsung “Experience Shops” at Best Buy locations for a month, but now you’ll finally have the chance to buy one. Immediately the woman starts screaming and laughing in excitement as the giant swing ride pulls her backwards fast before virtually throwing her forwards. Five minutes, and all your held-over-from-the-nineties notions of VR (and, as the show Community recently pointed out, its disastrous effect on nineties cinema) are likely to dissolve into wide-jawed yelps of “Awesome”.

Seemingly blown away by the technology, the mother looks genuinely panicked as her son instructs her to look around to make the most of the experience. Then along came HTC and Valve’s Vive, stealing much of the thunder, and that was preceded by Microsoft’s Hololens announcement – which, while not pure VR, can operate in ‘full screen mode’ serving up passable VR experiences to supplement its primary Augmented Reality purpose. But what makes virtual reality more likely to find success where other futuristic seeming sex products (like the now defunct Real Touch (NSFW)) have failed?

Founded by Palmer Luckey, the device was released in the form of two development kits – the DK1 in 2012 and DK2 in 2014 – to give developers a chance to create content in time for its official release. Should VR porn live up to its promise, it might eventually transform the way we create and consume pornThough sex-focused technology like teledildonics may monopolize the press’s attention, it’s mainstream technologies with a secret sexual side that serve to transform the way we experience sex; VR resembles other technologies that have helped to transform adult media and sexuality in years past.

It has been buying up start-ups focussed on particular VR applications and technologies, but the early pattern of releasing dev kits seems to have ground to a halt. VCRs allowed porn consumers to enjoy their fantasies in the privacy of their own home; the internet allowed them to access those fantasies without leaving the house; smartphones allowed for the exchange of naughty pictures. This is one reason I’m bullish on the future of podcasts: The audio-only nature of the medium makes it easy to consume while you are taking on other tasks such as hitting the gym or driving to work.

Virtual reality headsets are another mainstream device positioned to upend our experience of sexuality: VR allows us to experience our sexual fantasies in a heightened, immersive manner. Earlier this month Samsung announced a new version of Gear VR which will have compatibility with the forthcoming Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and further improvements like reduced weight and better ventilation to reduce fogging. Presumably the company is busy spending Facebook money making these hiring and acquisition investments, and it’s also fair to assume that when the Facebook billions came in it heralded a new day zero for development, with Oculus able to design custom integrated circuits instead of using off the shelf smartphone ICs, as well as work with its big name licensed technology partner Samsung for better screens.

It was last week YouTube added support for 360-degree 3D videos via their Android app and Chrome, while Samsung has their own app for watching immersive 3D videos via the Milk VR app. The newer version was first teased in early March, when John Carmack, Oculus’ CTO, claimed Gear VR would soon get a retail launch with Samsung’s next hardware cycle.

A self described “ladies’ porn star” who’s as likely to be found in a queer, feminist porn production as she is a more mainstream LA porn work, Darling is the opposite of Brian Shuster, who recently championed VR porn at SXSW — and she hopes her attitude towards adult content plus her team’s mastery of cutting-edge technology, will help her transform her industry. Apparently this was due in part to Oculus’ hesitation—who co-created the headset—about rolling out a product that wasn’t quite ready for the mainstream. The Innovator Edition tagline that accompanies the product is a result of the rift between the companies’ desired positioning of the product. “In Oculus there was this question of this mobile product—’ok it’s running John’s code well, but is it only going to work for super-optimized code? Alternatively, if you happen to already own a game control pad with Bluetooth functionality you can use that, though full button mapping may be lacking. Viewers are provided with a virtual bedroom, into which they can download packs of holographic sexual partners — along with a wide variety of scenarios.

Some people would have rather called it a dev kit but Samsung doesn’t do dev kits,” he said. “What got me off of [the idea that it isn’t ready] is that Gear VR launched—limited release, all these restrictions—but a funny thing happened… people kind of like it,” said Carmack. “We’ve had extremely good data on return rates. Now, that stacks up against the US$350 cost of the Oculus DK2, and is obviously mighty expensive by comparison, but of course you have yourself a Galaxy Note 4 to use day to day as part of the bargain. Currently, VRTube.XXX only offers access to female holograms, but the team plans to expand include holograms of a variety of genders to appeal to users of a number of orientations.

The immersive nature of VR also creates the possibility for content that consumers return to again and again, just to see all the details they may have missed the first time around. Other sites, like Virtual Real Porn, are already exploring heterosexual scenes shot from a female perspective, suggesting the VR porn market may be more eager to court a broader market than the one targeted by traditional porn. You’ve got your VR cave and it’s amazing, but Gear VR can go with you on vacation,” he said. “Every Gear VR has probably been on 10 different people’s heads.

When you attend Sleep No More and Then She Fell—site-specific shows that encourage exploration of physical spaces—y0u experience different things, depending on where you find yourself and when. Though a 360-degree head mount loaded with 12 GoPro cameras seemed like an appealing option, the 3D effect was lost when the camera came in for a close up; a serious issue in a medium that relies on close-ups. So, we had ample opportunity to sit back and watch their faces light up in wonder, and their arms waggle about in thin air as they tried to grasp non-existent objects. User feedback suggests most sites are still perfecting the art of the virtual erotic experience There’s also the consideration of file size: on VRTube.XXX, the free demo pack runs a whopping 3.8G, an unwieldy size in an industry relies heavily on streaming video.

I can tell you, the number of times I’ve been sitting at home, where my Oculus DK2 lives, and I’ve felt like some VR but just not bothered because I’ve grown weary of the 20 minutes of mucking around needed to get it working is a major disincentive, and many times I’ve just not bothered. But “with virtual reality, you’re wearing a headset that’s completely immersive,” Darling says. “You can look around, you can see the environment that you’re in, you can see what’s around you. In a sense, VR porn is a natural extension of the popular POV genre, in which viewers experience erotic acts shot from the perspective of one of the participants. The Cinema is an odd one, it plants you in the middle of a virtual cinema, and as far as a good first VR experience that conveys the impact of ‘being there’ goes, it’s very good. Darling, for one, isn’t convinced that this is the medium’s strength. “If you could create an interactive narrative that really worked, that would be awesome, but there are a lot of pitfalls there,” she says.

A misstep in narrative might jolt the viewer into uncanny valley territory; too much focus on interactivity runs the risk of lessening the feeling of immersion, arguably the medium’s bigger strength. More importantly, interactive porn already exists as a genre, it’s just not very popular — certainly not as popular as the POV porn that’s served as the precursor to many immersive VR sex experiences.

Haptics-enabled VR, which could allow users to feel their virtual companion in addition to seeing and hearing them, is still far in the future; virtual sex experiences that rival flesh and blood ones are even further still. The resolution is poor and you’re always moving your head, even inadvertently, just enough that the actual movie content becomes incidental, and is a distant second to just about any other method of viewing the same content. The only one worth playing today is Temple Run VR, which if you’re not familiar with this title is a run fast through a confined path while things shoot at you game. If only there were a mode allowing you to run unimpeded to enjoy the excellent and fast moving VR experience without having to worry about flaming painballs.

For starters, it’s excellent to see recognised by the mere existence of this category that the utility value of the whole VR thing is to trip out in wondrous places, being dazzled and amazed. Titans of Space is top notch, taking you on a tour of the solar system, but with bothersome educational info popups when all you want to do is stare at enormous planets and look around at the stars. There’s a promising looking thing called Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana, but it’s just a two minute advertisement for the stage show, with tantalising glimpses of the possibilities, but then it’s all over.

On one hand, we can’t complain too much because every single Game and Experience is free, but that’s balanced against the very limited number available, and that the price of entry is well over a thousand dollars. But really, what is happening is that the VR machine now exists and we can have it today, and there are developers working on amazing things right now, and that it’s now cemented and won’t go away.

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