First Impressions – Part 1

Status Update – I Have One, I Testet It 😀

I finally got the Note 4 and the Gear VR together in one room and put the one into the other.

I am actually impressed … hard.

My worries are pretty much completely gone. I realize that there will be challenges.


The Bad News First

The touchpad at the side and the back button are anything but optimal for an amazing first impression. A way to let owners remote control the first experiences for people who try out the headset for the first time would be awesome. Don’t get me wrong, any experienced technology user will feel right at home and might even be tempted to abort the tutorial in the middle, but it is unfortunate that there will probably be a shadow over the otherwise awesome experience when you present the Gear VR to your mom, aunt or teacher. Maybe Samsung and Oculus will pull another rabbit out of their hat for the consumer version.

The home menu is not awesome. The most recently used apps are easily accessible, but for the others you need to enter the library. Navigating the library it is pretty tedious. That will hopefully change for the consumer version at some point (I hope there will also be software updates for the Innovator’s Edition).

There is some substance to my worries regarding cameras that follow a path without the user being able to control the acceleration. The InMind experience is a very simple game that does just that. I felt pretty comfortable most of the time. My brother had a very similar response and did better than I did. Mother, sister and father all finished the whole thing. My mother struggled more with the game mechanics than with sickness. For my father and my sister it was more of a challenge. Longer and faster would be a very bad idea. I guess the roller coaster ride might be too much without some training and getting used to the sensory input. I still think as a convenient experience the genre has mass market potential.

The resolution of the 360° videos varies a lot, but the hardware needs to get better for those to reach their full potential. I think there are quite a few big players who get in the game too early, depending on what their exact plans are (Disney, Verizon, GoPro etc.).

The biggest worry is the different responses by different people. It will be extremely difficult to develop for the mass market. People will fall into different categories and many will not be able to experience all the content that is out there.


The Good News

I had high hopes regarding the stereoscopic effects with VR glasses because I love 3D TVs. I was totally blown away by what people mean when they say that it feels like you are actually there. It can not be described and must be experienced.

360° Photos

Even simply enjoying the 3D photos (there are quite a few of those) is absolutely awesome.

Some are in a different league than others. I assume that for some there are separate images for the left and the right eye while that is not the case for others. Maybe I am wrong there, though. Some of the photos I liked were actually renders (I love the Truck scene while my brother keeps going back to a kitchen interior.

360° Videos

They are okay, but they will probably not be the most impressive content for quite a while. They come in handy when people have gotten excited and are asking for more. There is one animation movie sample that seems sharper than the others and is more daring with the speed. I almost suspected that it is actually not a high definition video but rendered at runtime. That is impossible, judging from the way the video player works, though.


I thought that it was a bad idea to put the user in a cinema, only to not break the rule that head movement must make a difference in what the user sees. I was curious to see what the 3D trailer looks like and did not have high hopes for that experiment. I had seen the developer resources like textures and what the 3D models look like.

The funny thing is, sitting in that cinema is almost the coolest thing I have ever experienced and I have yet to see a 3D movie in such a cinema (I have not managed to have the SD card where I need it when I need it). Just looking at the seats next to or behind you is otherworldly. It makes me want to create a drive-in cinema model and I might look into what it takes to do that.


The store is pretty cool as well. There is not much content yet, but that does not bother me. There are nice free demos like Ocean Rift (Gear VR Edition) and TheBluVR which prove that it can be totally awesome when huge things are shown close to the viewer.


Oculus must have done a stellar job at optimizing for energy efficiency. If I had not read about how enormous that challenge is, I would not have suspected that there is an issue. I will have to write about future impressions. The Mobile VR Jam should provide content soon enough. I will also play with the native development samples asap and have something to write about … also relatively soonish.


I noticed a few times that taking a break from time to time is not a bad idea. It does take some getting used to and little tings can make a difference. In the photos the camera position is not always chosen in a way that you could be a person in the scene. It is “interesting” when you float and look down for example. Acceleration that you do not control is a valid experience for many and I hope to play with that at some point, but it is not for everybody. It will be interesting to see if people can improve their resilience over time.

My main fear was that staring at an object very close to your eyes would cause troubles over time. I thought I would miss the relaxation of the eye muscles that comes with staring into the distance … and that VR would differ a lot from actual reality because your eyes do not have to adjust when you look at objects that are closer or further away. Fortunately that fear was completely shattered right away. The eyes are completely relaxed almost all the time, no matter where you look. The difference between actual reality and staring at something directly infront of your eyes does not make a difference … or at least that is how I feel.

I would love to see a version where the vision correction can be done for each eye individually. When I focus on that problem, it is pretty obvious … but after a while I keep forgetting it. Compensating seems to work pretty well, not sure if that will be the case when I am more tired and in experiences where details matter.



I think VR cannot possibly fail forever.

There will be many epic failures and as many or more huge successes very soon. It will not be an easy market, not because it will be hard to create great content, but because soon people will be spoilt rotten and expect greater content.

Now I am really looking forward to taking a look at Cardboard (I already have one) to see how huge Carmack’s contribution is. I suspect that even the ~$2 Billion that Facebook had to pay for Oculus would be too low a salary to be considered a just reward. The Gear VR is truly a masterpiece.

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