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Getting into Gear with VR: GearVR Consumer Edition pt. 2 – Product and Software Review

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On November 20th, 2015, Oculus began rolling out the Samsung manufactured GearVR: the first consumer virtual reality headset.

Cerebralhack will be doing a a 3-part series of write-ups throughout the week.

Part 1 – The Basics
Part 2 – Product Review
Part 3 – Software Review

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The main questions I hear are in relation to Google Cardboard, and it’s best to get this out of the way now – see them as two totally separate things, because they are. While Cardboard apps can work with GearVR hardware (See the unspoken part 4 coming soon!), the opposite is not as easily approached, and is likely pretty useless. Apples and Oranges.

At $99 you get the headset and two straps, nada else.  So be sure to invest in a camera type case, plus something to wipe your screen and lenses down with, as you’ll be doing it often!

On my 64gb Note 5 with most of the norms installed (Waze, Relay Pro, Facebook, et al.), I’ve got 10gb free. I currently have 48 applications from the Oculus Home store installed (maybe roughly half the current catalog?), seven apps from Sideload installed, and two 720p movies I ripped from some old HDDVDs.

Space is definitely a premium. My solution was an OTG drive so I don’t need a desktop to move files between my 10gb swap. $20 on Amazon (no, I’m not getting paid for linking) and I got a USB 3.0 OTG 64gb drive that I keep swappable content on (videos, books and audio, high res images). Note5 works awesome with it; as soon as it’s plugged in the file explorer opens, you transfer what you want over, pull out when done, flip in GearVR, and sail away.Uncanny_Cyclops_Portrait_Art

No, it can’t be plugged in and kept there, but you can load data to it quickly without needing a desktop.

Once you’re going through your setup ritual (see Part 1 – The Basics), your eyes are brought into the 3D space by a single swirling image before being transported to Oculus Home, the hub of where you do most of your application selecting, game shopping, and library browsing. The idea here is to set a selection menu in your field of view and to use your focal point as a mouse cursor, allowing you to literally select what you see by tapping the right side of your head … like Cyclops!

When I first put my headset on and got to this point, I looked from side to side.  And at its most simplistic, you are in a large home with big open windows for walls with a fantastic view of some white clouds against a slightly setting sun.  Sitting on my couch at the time, looking to my left already, I just kinda laid my head to the side and gazed out the virtual window at the way the sun reflected oranges off the clouds. I remember thinking to myself, “this is just the beginning?”  I was instantly floored virtually, on a couch, on my couch.

There is a VR introduction video you can go through, which will get you oriented with the GearVR functionality,  user interface, and the various controls – from swiping the directional pad to scroll through content, to the “look and tap,” using the focal point to “point,” and tapping the directional pad to “select.” It also makes mention of the very real susceptibility to motion sickness.  Motion sickness related warnings in Virtual Reality should not be treated with the scarcity of urgency that people (without) feel when seeing warnings of epilepsy in video games.  Your brain has a very tuned system in place that gives you your sense of presence. Currently, when in virtual reality, only two of your five senses can be engaged; this has the potential to throw things off and varies from person to person.  Developers help to alleviate these issues by giving you the most control possible.  As we all know from video games anyway, the more control we have over what we see, the more immersed we are in what we do.

Having said that, the first app I tried out was The Body VR.a

A couple of weeks ago, Oculus announced a new section in their store called “Concepts.” This was a place for developers and creators to showcase ideas that, which while they may not be full fledged games, are still worth merit to experience the mechanics or functions in a streamlined way, like a store install as opposed to sideloading an unverified apk.

After all was installed and downloaded, I jumped in. The Body VR demonstrates how simple design and knowing what your doing goes a long way.  This concept miniaturizes “you” on an intelligently designed platform and takes you on a journey through the human heart. While there are times it pulls you around (which is generally a “no no” as it’s the fastest way to get someone sick), the idea, the concept, the design, and execution are flawless while doing a great job in giving someone a taste of what is possible, while still giving them a good enough taste to walk away with a genuine experience.

These are my other 5-star Oculus Home picks. There are other 5-star quality things to do, but there are reviews about those in other places. These are my faves.

Videos – Cirque du Soleil – KuriosFree

This is my showcase video. When I want to nail the immersion head tracking can give when activities are going on all around you, this is the video I use. The entire bit was done with a 360 degree intent of viewing; the choreography, props, and colors utilized do a fantastic job of bringing the viewer in and spotlighting the fun that can be had.

Concepts – Epic Dragon Free

Do you want to fly? I mean, like, Blue Angels pulling Gs flying. This isn’t something to give grandma on her first spin in VR. This is for the seasoned and strong-stomached. This concept puts you in the eyes of a dragon, and by neck movement you guide its wings in a free flight simulator, collecting eggs along the way to try and get more fly time.45

Games – Herobound – $9.99 (Demo Available)

As I dove deeper into trying stuff out, every game was my favorite (well not really, but if you can’t say anything nice…) I love Adventure Time, love love. Mathematically. But Herobound stands taller for me, only because it had a a lower platform to start on to create such an awesome game.

It kinda reminds of of Zelda, but slightly cartoony, with a great perspective standpoint throughout the game. From what it looks, there are free and paid chapters. I’ve not even gotten through the first Herobound (which is free) and I’m already sold on the others I haven’t played.

Experience – Ocean Rift $9.99 (Demo Available)

11Ocean Rift holds a special place for me. Technically speaking, the experience is amazing. The elements are created procedurally, which lends to an element of randomness, giving off the illusion of being more natural. But more so than that, this experience in particular helped me understand what VR can be. I personally have a severe allergy to all shellfish and seafoods – strangely (or maybe not so much), I’ve had a fascination with marine biology and marine life for as long as I can remember. I even have a Nano coral reef that, if you saw me while doing maintenance on it, you’d ask why not just put on a HazMat suit?

Ocean Rift gave me first-hand experience of the scale of some of the largest creatures on the planet in a virtual world – then, it showed me a couple prehistoric ones! I couldn’t be happier for $10.

In closing Part 2 (of 4) Support your Devs!  This is new ground some are venturing out into, do what you can to encourage that!2

This brings me to OTOY content. OTOY is a company that manages the software for a 3D render engine called Octane. A few months back, they ran a Multiverse contest open to Artists and Creators. All the submissions are available in one of two ways.

The simplest is to head to Oculus 360 Photos and view the OTOY content there. You can spend so much time just checking out the detail and hard work that was put into these creations, some of them are downright inspiring.

See you in Part 3!

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Steven

Steven Caputo is a 37 year old 16yr Technology Professional presently working out of Chicago, IL. In his free time; an artist, a musician, a geek, a gamer, a philosophy/neuroscience junkie, and nano coral-reef aquarist. His opinions are his own, especially the weird stuff!

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