Over the last year, Samsung and Oculus have rapidly transformed the Gear VR from nerdy tinker toy to full fledged VR platform. There's no shortage of great content, both in video and gaming formats, and the new hardware is performing well for just about everyone. It has gotten easier to use, and with more users adopting the platform every day it's clear this isn't going anywhere anytime soon. While VR has been growing in popularity everywhere, the Gear VR is clearly the most improved over the last year.
That said, there are a few things we'd like to see Samsung and Oculus tackle next to take the Gear VR even further into the future.
Right now if you get a notification in VR mode from something else happening in your phone, there's nothing you can do about it in VR mode. That is, you can't act on it at all. You have to take the headset off, remove the phone, act on the notification, and then go back into VR. Samsung would be well served to work with Oculus on a Desktop View in the Oculus environment, something that let the user see the phone home screen and interact with notification inside of VR mode. Basic things like answering phone calls or replying to messages is something you can already do through the Gear S2, so why not in VR?
Samsung started 2016 with a demo of the Rink finger controllers for the Gear VR. They weren't perfect, but putting your fingers in the virtual environment was an incredibly compelling idea. The current Oculus environment doesn't really need a different input, but for gaming alone these controllers would be cool. Make it happen, Samsung!
The Gear VR camera passthrough mode is terribly under-utilized. Where are the Terminator Vision apps or live vision filters to make everything around you look like you're in the Iron Man suit? While not nearly as purposeful as some of the current features in the Gear VR, it feels like a mistake to not wield the exceptional camera on the back of Samsung phones for some kind of Augmented Reality experience. Even if it's something as simple as QR-code AR stuff, through the Gear VR those experiences would be terribly surreal.
Total experience bundle
Samsung sells the Gear VR for $99, but it doesn't take many users long to realize you need a good gamepad, some Bluetooth headphones, and probably a battery backup if you're going to be taking this VR experience with you everyone. Samsung should put together a full bundle with everything you'd need to fully appreciate the experience, complete with a nice carrying case like the original developer kit for the Gear VR had. It's clear Samsung worked hard to hit that $99 price point, but there are absolutely people out there who will see the experience their friends have and want to dive in with a full kit of their own.
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