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Virtual Reality Aims for the Mobile Phone

November 12, 2014 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Simon Parkin / MIT Technology Review

A smartphone-based virtual reality headset from Samsung and Oculus VR, could make the technology more accessible, but it also demonstrates a new set of challenges.

Max Cohen, head of mobile at Oculus VR, the virtual reality startup bought by Facebook this year for $2 billion, is unequivocal: the dominant way most consumers will experience virtual reality will be on mobile devices.

"PCs and dedicated machines will always have more power, but at some point, graphics become 'good enough' on a mobile device and none of that matters anymore," Cohen says. "Will it be in two years' time? Five years? Ten? I don't know. But it will happen. You can't surpass the beauty of being untethered."

Gear VR, a forthcoming headset from Oculus VR and Samsung, is the first attempt at this "untethered" vision. It is the product of a fortuitous meeting, when Oculus VR approached the Korean electronics giant to have it create screens for the Rift, its yet-to-be-released device. Samsung had been working on a virtual reality headset into which you which you could slide a Galaxy Note mobile phone in order to experience portable VR. Now the two companies are collaborating on the resulting product, with Oculus VR providing expertise and software.

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