Gear VR turns your Galaxy Note 4 into a virtual reality headset


Photo: Samsung

If Samsung’s new Gear VR isn’t the coolest smartphone accessory ever made, then I don’t know what is. Announced at IFA 2014 in Berlin today, this big block of plastic turns your new Galaxy Note 4 into a virtual reality headset to provide an immersive mobile gaming experience like no other.

The Gear VR was built with the help of Oculus, and it looks very similar to the Rift — like a giant pair of ski goggles that you strap onto your face. Unlike the Oculus Rift, however, the Gear VR doesn’t have a display of its own. Instead, you pull of the front panel and slot in your Galaxy Note 4 before sticking it on.

Rather than having to plug the headset into another device, then, everything’s contained inside one unit, while a special gamepad that ships with the device will allow you to control everything.

So technically, you could take the Gear VR out with you and use it wherever you wish. You can even activate the Note 4’s rear-facing camera to see what’s happening around you while you have the headset on. But due to its size and design, it’s probably best that you save it for your own enjoyment behind closed doors.

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 15.00.33

Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Android.

The Gear VR won’t just work with any Android game, of course; new titles must be built that are specifically designed to provide a virtual reality experience. Samsung has created some of its own that were shown off at IFA, and the South Korean company is releasing an SDK that will allow third-party developers to contribute to its library.

It’s probably best to wait until a larger catalog of titles are available before you adopt the Gear VR, then, but given that it has Samsung behind it — which has the cash to convince developers to build for it — we have no reason to doubt that the Gear VR won’t be a success.

How much of a success will depend on its price tag, and whether Samsung makes it compatible with other devices later. Initially it will work with the Note 4 only.

You can expect to see the Gear VR on sale this fall.