December 30th 2015, the day had finally arrived; I had just received a Samsung Galaxy S6 for Christmas; one of four phones compatible with the Samsung Gear, the other three phones being: Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge, and Galaxy S6 edge+. Eager to try out this new and exciting technology the first thing I did was open it and examine everything that came in the box, which can be seen in the image below.
What we’re looking at here is: the headset, straps, instructions, and safety information. Setting up the Samsung Gear was pretty simple, follow the instructions to put on the straps, remove all the plastic and get your phone ready. The instructions detail how to insert your phone, which is done by removing the front panel and essentially plugging it in and snapping it into place. Once I plugged in my phone for the first time I was prompted to download the Oculus app and create an account, nothing too tricky. Once this app is installed all you need to do is plug your phone back in and the virtual reality session will launch. Before trying it for myself I read through the instructions, which also detailed all of the buttons and what they do. In the image above you can see a wheel near the middle of the headset, think of this like the focus on the camera, it will need to be adjusted differently for each person; it’s also important to note that the straps should be on tight to insure a clear image.
This image also shows you some of the important buttons on the right hand side, if you’re wearing the device. Where his finger is on the device is sort of like a touch pad, there is also a button on the center that acts like a mouse button for you to click. The interesting thing about this device is that the touch pad is how you click and scroll, but your vision determines where the cursor is, so basically where you look determines where you can click. The black buttons on the side control volume, the instructions recommend max volume to increase immersion. The button above the touchpad is a back button, holding this button will bring you to a sort of settings page, which is good if you ever get lost or need to go back to the home page. That screen looks like this.
On the top you can see the time, your Wi-Fi connection which is needed to run this application, and your phone’s battery; it can be easy to forget you’re using your phone so checking in on the battery is important during extended use. The bottom row has settings which can be toggled to the user’s preference; things like brightness, do not disturb mode, reorienting the display, and more. The option on the far left brings you to the home page, which looks like, a clearer version of this.
There are tiles which you can click on to explore preinstalled apps, and an app store which I would recommend browsing for free and paid apps. The coolest thing about this home screen, and VR in general, is the ability to look around. You can move your head and look all around this home screen, which looks like a home. Exploring 360 pictures is like experiencing a photo in a completely new way, you can move your head, and vision, and see different parts of the same image; its much different than just looking at a static image on a computer screen. During 360 videos you can also look around during the video, it’s almost as if you’re holding the camera.
Needless to say, I was instantly hooked and spent most of the day using it and exploring what it could really do. I spent most of the next day, New Year’s Eve, doing the same thing. When people started to come over for a party we were having, everyone wanted to try it out; and everyone, skeptical parents and enthusiastic kids alike, was blown away by this device. Set up was easy, using it was easy, downloading apps was easy, and possibly best of all it didn’t break the bank at only $99. If you have a phone compatible with the Samsung Gear I cannot recommend enough that you go out and purchase it; you have never, and will never, experienced media like this and it will open your world.