Topics Covered: 1. What is Samsung’s Gear VR platform? 2. What Use Cases is the Gear VR Best Suited For? 3. What is the Basic Process for Gear VR Publishing with InstaVR? 4. Special Considerations Unique to Gear VR Apps 5. Client Examples
1. What is Samsung’s Gear VR Platform?
HTC Vive and Oculus Rift get the most hype, and Google Cardboard has the widest distribution, but among headset makers the Samsung Gear VR is one of the most successful platforms for displaying immersive 360 experiences. With over 5 million headsets sold to date, this is an HMD that is consistently undervalued for the experience it delivers upon at a reasonable price point. Gear VR is one of the most important VR platforms today and will continue to be going forward.
What is the Gear VR?
A Samsung Gear VR is really a combination of two things — a Gear VR head-mounted display and a compatible Samsung phone. The list of phones that work with Gear VR is limited: Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Samsung Galaxy S6/s6 Edge/S6 Edge+, and the Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge. The forthcoming Galaxy S8 will also be compatible (and they’ll throw in a free Gear VR headset with phone purchase!).
The headsets themselves are not terribly expensive — retailing for $99, or even less on the resale market. But the required compatible phones generally run about $700+. These are top of the line phones though, and get very good reviews.
Starting next month, a new Gear VR headset will be released to coincide with the Galaxy S8 rollout. The headset itself will be the same as the older model, but will include a hand controller, something that Google made a standard part of mobile headset VR with the release of its Google Daydream platform in the Fall. The new Gear VR headset + controller will retail for $129. (But again, it’s currently free as of March 2017 with pre-order of the Galaxy S8).
What’s so great about the Gear VR?
There are a number of very cool features with the Gear VR. First off, you’re not tethered to a high end computer like with the current versions of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, so it truly is a mobile VR platform. Second, the FOV is much more immersive than Google Cardboard. The cost and portability of Google Cardboard are unparalleled, but you always seem to be aware that you’re looking into cardboard, as you can see the headset in your peripheral vision. The Gear VR headset just feels more immersive and you can lose awareness that you’re in virtual reality. Finally, the image quality for both stills and videos is higher than you’re likely to experience on the iPhone, for instance, which limits video to 2K presently.
Current Gear VRs are mobile, high quality, and durable. Starting next month, the newest versions of Gear VR will also include a controller for even more interactivity.
2. What Use Cases is the Gear VR Best Suited For?
The Gear VR headset, much like other mobile VR platforms, is well-suited to a lot of different use cases. But because it can handle higher quality images/videos, as well as more long-form videos, it has certain applicability that makes it unique. Below is a non-exhaustive list of specific use cases for which you might consider utilizing a Gear VR to display your VR experiences authored on the InstaVR platform. (please note, this list will adjust slightly once the hand controller version of Gear VR is in wide distribution)
- Trade Shows – We always bring at least two, and sometimes up to five Gear VR headsets when we present at tradeshows. Why? They draw people to your booth. Unlike a Google Cardboard, which many people have experienced before, the Gear VR has a cache and immersive quality that leaves booth visitors impressed. Though you’re limited in the number of Gear VRs you can pass out because of the price (vs. Google Cardboards, where you can buy them in bulk), you’re sure to generate a line if you’ve authored a buzzworthy VR app for your Gear VR. One extra bonus: Gear VRs are very portable, so unlike with an HTC Vive or an Oculus Rift, you can pack them in your carry-on.
- Sales Presentations – Like with tradeshows, you generally want to put your best foot forward during sales presentations. Showing up to a meeting with clients with Gear VRs in tow is an easy way to impress them when you show off your company’s offerings in 360. You can also easily publish the same experience on InstaVR to iOS/Android at very little additional time, so you can provide them with a leave behind, but they’ll still have the memory of the Gear VR experience.
- Real Estate– If you’re a buyer’s agent looking to show off potential homes to clients, the Gear VR is a great way to give them an immersive tour before you take them to the actual homes. In high traffic areas like Los Angeles, New York, and the Bay Area — why not do an immersive virtual tour before you actually drive to the homes? Perhaps you can eliminate some homes that simply aren’t a good fit.
- Training/Recruiting – Certain use cases like VR for Training or VR for Recruiting require longer form VR immersion. With iOS and Android apps limited to 2 GBs, and Google Cardboard headsets not being as comfortable, you can utilize the Gear VR for training of employees or for giving potential employees a sense of what your corporate culture and office space is like. The portability of Gear VRs also makes shipping them off for use around the country or globe fairly easy.
- Architecture/Engineering/BIM – These three industries rely heavily on computer-generated VR, often utilizing high resolution image and video. The actual experience of these media types is simply clearer and better on Gear VR than Google Cardboard or other iOS/Android based headsets. And given the high resolution of cubemaps, and overall size of the apps, some of the VR created for these industries simply isn’t feasible on a normal phone or headset.
Tradeshows are a great opportunity to promote your company or clients through VR. Because of the portability and high quality of the Gear VR experience, we highly recommend publishing to the platform if you’re going to be exhibiting at a tradeshow.
3. What is the Basic Process for Publishing to Gear VR with InstaVR?
The actual mechanics of authoring a Gear VR app on InstaVR are the same as for other mobile apps. There’s a great video on that general process embedded on the bottom of this page and we have a written step-by-step guide here. Only the Packaging actions will be different, which will be discussed a bit lower on this page.
Below is a quick refresher on app creation, with special focus on things our Gear VR publishers should note:
- Upload your panoramic 360 VR images and videos. Images should be in a standard panoramic format (ie .jpg, .png, .tiff) and videos should be .mp4s. You can also use computer generated VR from software companies like Autodesk, VRay, Lumion, etc. If you’re using long-form video, or have generated high resolution computer generated VR using cubemaps, Gear VRs are definitely the best platform to publish to.
- Author using Navigation Links & Hotspots. If you’d like to give your Gear VR app some interactivity, you can overlay on the panoramic images or video Navigation links (to go from scene-to-scene) or Hotspots (to augment with flat images, videos, audio narration, or text). Once the hand controller is available for the new Gear VR models, we’ll also update our platform so you can use that controller to initiate Hotspots and Navigation links.
- Brand your app. Just like with a standard mobile app, you’ll use our Console to create an app icon that will reside on the Samsung phone the Gear VR user has, and will be clicked to initiate the Gear VR experience. After the phone is loaded into the headset, it will then play the splash image or video, if you’ve chosen to include them with your VR app.
- Publish. We’ll cover this in more depth below. For most customers, they’ll sideload the Gear VR app onto the specific phone. This is a process that can seem pretty daunting the first time you do it, but is actually quite simple once you’ve done it once.
Creators of high resolution computer generated 360 media are well-served publishing to Gear VR. Cubemaps can be transformed into vivid 3D experiences.
4. Special Considerations Unique to Gear VR Apps
Though the app creation process using InstaVR is the same for Gear VR as other mobile VR platforms (with the obvious exception of packaging), there are some significant considerations that you should take into account. We try to cover some of those below.
Because of the high quality of the Gear VR headset, you should definitely consider using video and accompanying audio in your Gear VR app. You can also upload high resolution computer generated 360 media to the InstaVR platform. Both audio & image type selections are found in the right margin of the Authoring section.
Unlike with Google Cardboard, the Home with Multiple Tours function isn’t applicable to Gear VR. You can make a de facto home screen using an initial 360 image + placing multiple Navigation Links over that panorama scene. Your users can then keep the headset on while choosing between various VR experiences to launch in the Gear VR.
The most popular way to distribute your Gear VR app is to sideload it onto specific phones. The problem is you need a Device ID to package the app uniquely for that phone, and Samsung does not make it simple to obtain that ID. So InstaVR built an app that’s sole function is to give you the Device ID quickly! Download it here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=co.instavr.instavrgearvrutil&hl=en
You’re going to need to generate an .osig file for each of the Gear VR headsets you’re loading your VR experience onto. That .osig file can be obtained at the Oculus site, and you need to collect the aforementioned Device IDs before generating .osigs. On the bright side, with InstaVR you can upload multiple .osig files at the same time.
One of the biggest benefits to using Gear VR is that the InstaVR team figured out a way to expand the allowable size of the app — all the way to 9 GB! So if you have long-form videos you want to turn into an app, you can choose either Gear VR or HTC Vive to publish to. You’ll need to upgrade to InstaVR Enterprise to access this functionality, but for many apps it’s a great fit!
5. Client Examples
As mentioned at the outset, Gear VR is a perfect headset for a lot of different companies and use cases.
Below are a few clients specifically utilizing the Gear VR to showcase their 360 VR media.
AECOM – This Fortune 500 engineering firm uses InstaVR to share computer generated building projects. They’ll pre-load Gear VRs with proposed construction projects and mail them to community development meetings to get local support for their projects.
Read more about that here: https://www.instavr.co/customer-stories/aecom
Sanrio – The parent company of Hello Kitty creates high quality tours of their Puroland amusement park, and places them on Gear VRs to showcase the venue to overseas tour operators in an effort garner more park visitors.
Read more about that here: http://www.animationmagazine.net/top-stories/hello-kitty-theme-park-taps-instavr-for-vr-content/
Left of Creative – This digital producer and agency creates high octane VR apps for a government client. Convention visitors can be transported to the immersive and exciting world captured on site by the Left of Creative video team.
Customer Success Story coming soon!
Gear VR is a great platform with many applicable use cases. It’s more immersive than Google Cardboard, more mobile than Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and continually improving. If you haven’t experienced Gear VR before, we highly recommend it. You’ll see why there are so many advantages to using InstaVR to publish to the platform.