Samsung’s $99 Gear VR launches in November, adds virtual reality to all new …

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Netflix streams into VR, shares up nearly 6%.

Samsung Electronics and Facebook’s Ove unveiled a new version of theGear VR headset, aimed at bringing what executives said was the “power of virtual reality to the mainstream.” To reach the masses, the headset will be priced at $US99 and work with the full slate of 2015 Samsung Galaxy phones: Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge+, S6 and S6 Edge. The streaming provider showed off the new app, available now in the Oculus VR app store, on Thursday at the three-day Oculus Connect 2 conference in L.A.Virtual reality took a few steps closer to the mainstream Thursday, with Samsung unveiling a headset that brings the technology to its latest smartphones at half the price of its previous model, Facebook launching support for 360-degree video, and online video services like Netflix and Hulu jumping into into the format. The new headset is 22 per cent lighter and “much more comfortable” than the previous Innovator editions, which Samsung first released last year to fine-tune its consumer product.

FB 0.47 % ’s Oculus virtual-reality unit is lining up additional content, including movies and games, ahead of the planned launch of its consumer headset early next year. The announcements at a developers conference in Los Angeles for virtual reality technology company Oculus represent attempts to push the platform beyond a video-gamer-focused niche. The Gear VR includes a trackpad, back button and motion sensors to detect acceleration and gyroscopic position, but it still requires the brains and high-resolution screen of a smartphone to work. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told the approximately 1,500 conference attendees that the company “is committed to [virtual reality] for the long-term….We’re going to work hard to serve this community.” Mr. Zuckerberg has repeatedly said virtual reality will be the next major computing platform, making it possible to enjoy a courtside seat at a game or consult with a doctor face-to-face.

A third device, the Oculus Touch, which will allow users to pick up objects and interact within a virtual reality world, is projected to be available in the second quarter of next year. Netflix content is available to be viewed in Oculus or Samsung headsets starting Thursday, while Hulu said it would also bring its app to the Oculus platform where users can stream 2-D content as well as an original virtual reality short film called “The Big One,” from YouTube star Freddie Wong’s RocketJump production company.

During the conference, Oculus executives said they had joined with Twentieth Century Fox and Lions Gate LGF -0.42 % to bring movies to Oculus, in an attempt to re-create the experience of watching a movie on a big screen. Executives said more than 100 movies will be available from Fox, including the “Alien” trilogy, “Die Hard” and “Black Swan.” (Fox’s parent, 21st Century Fox, FOX -1.13 % and News Corp, NWSA 0.63 % parent of The Wall Street Journal, were until mid-2013 part of the same company.) Thursday’s announcements will beef up the content available through virtual reality, mostly by adapting existing games, movies and shows to the format. Previously, Minecraft creator Markus Persson said he canceled an Oculus deal because he said its corporate parent, Facebook, “creeps me out.” This new Gear VR will sell this fall, Samsung said, and it will cost $100 less than the Innovator editions built specifically for theGalaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S6 phones. “We see virtual reality as the next computing platform, and we are thrilled to partner with Oculus on Gear VR to set the standard for mobile VR and bring this revolutionary product to consumers,” J.K. Ron Bredow, an executive at Disney’s Lucasfilm unit, said the company was experimenting with five- to 10-minute videos. “Is that going to be the kind of thing that’s compelling enough as its own medium to hold your attention for two hours?” Mr. Oculus in January launched a studio that has produced two movies: “Henry,” a cartoon about a lonely hedgehog looking for friends, and “Lost,” about a robot hand searching for its owner in a dense, dark forest.

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