Wading into Virtual Reality with Gear VR

If you follow me on on Twitter, you may have noticed that I’ve been retweeting alot of articles about Virtual Reality lately. My interest in VR has been growing for a while now. It probably first came on my radar when Philip Rosedale left his position as CEO for Linden Lab (creators of Second Life) to pursue other projects.  I’ve followed his work for the last few years including his most recent project High Fidelity, that launched in 2013. High Fidelity is presently in BETA but is touted as a next-generation virtual world.  High Fidelity currently supports a few high-end head mounted displays (or HMD’s for short) including the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

Linden Lab has also been working for the past year on Project Sansar, a new platform for virtual experiences.  In their latest press release: Linden Lab invites first virtual experience creators to Project Sansar Testing, they describe Project Sansar as:

Slated for general availability in 2016, Project Sansar will democratize virtual reality as a creative medium. It will empower people to easily create, share, and monetize their own multi-user, interactive virtual experiences, without requiring engineering resources. The platform will enable professional-level quality and performance with exceptional visual fidelity, 3D audio, and physics simulation. Experiences created with Project Sansar will be optimized for VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, but also accessible via PCs and (at consumer launch) mobile devices. Users can explore and socialize within Project Sansar experiences through advanced expressive avatars, using text and voice chat.

ryvr256I have been following all of this with interest, but until recently I hadn’t actually experienced Virtual Reality. My husband started coming home a few months ago gabbing about some friends from work who had picked up a Samsung Gear VR and brought it into the office for people to try out. He knows of my interest of 3D and Virtual worlds and knew that I would love it.

He also knew that his cellular contact was up for renewal soon, so took the time to watch for sales on a Gear VR Supported device. Two weeks ago the Samsung Galaxy S6 went on sale for $100 (w/2-year contract renewal) with our cellular provider (MTS). So, we grabbed it up, and headed straight to Best Buy to pick up a Samsung Gear VR (which was also on sale for $109 CAD at the time).

The first thing I watched was Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios and it was absolutely wild!  If you get the chance to check it out, do it! If you’re curious about how the experience was produced, check out the video below:

We’ve spent a lot of time in the marketplace the last few weeks, looking for free content, reading reviews on paid content we might like to purchase. There is a fair bit, but not a ton. This is understandable because the technology is new, not everyone has the skill set to develop for this platform. There are also a lot of competition in the VR market right now with higher-end HMDs like the Oculus Rift and HTV Vive.

The one thing that Samsung Gear VR has going for is its price point. At $139 retail in a fun add-on but presently its only available to those who own a Samsung S6, S6 Edge, S7 or Note 5. More users should join the fray as Samsung users upgrade their phones to the latest versions. Since the S7 launched in March, more deals on the S6 and S6 Edge are available for customers to take advantage of.

With my 3D modelling experience we’ve decided to take a shot at creating a virtual environment for the Gear VR. The last two days we’ve spent installing Unity using the Quickstart Guide: VR & Unity from CG Cookie. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with it yet exactly – we’ll see how I fair developing in Unity. I’ve played with it a bit in the past, the interface is fairly similar to other 3D programs I’ve used before so, most of the time I know what I’m looking for, I just need to find where it is in Unity. I’ll keep everyone posted on our progress!

Have you tried a VR Headset? What did you think?

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About the author

Jill of everything master of nothing. Digital Communications Specialist, Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Developer, Artist, Marketer, Trainer & Writer.