The virtual reality revolution is beginning, and the 2015 holiday season is the key time for the movement to gain serious traction. Virtual reality entertainment is the logical next step from the pristine clarity of the 4K Ultra HD smart televisions, coupled with gaming systems with graphics that blur the line between computer generated images and the 3-dimmensional objects we human beings interact with every day.
Facebook's ( FB ) subsidiary Oculus VR is one of the primary leaders in this virtual reality movement. This past June, the company premiered its Oculus Rift at a special event in San Francisco, a VR headset that very well may transform the way individuals game and interact on social media. Currently, the company will begin shipping the Oculus Rift early Q1 of 2016, with presales starting in late 2015 - no exact dates have been announced yet.
What has been announced is the price for the consumer edition of Oculus' Gear VR , a mobile VR headset developed by both Oculus and Samsung ( SSNLF ). At the Oculus Connect 2 event a few days ago , the Oculus Mobile division stated the consumer edition of the Gear VR will be priced at $99, compared to the $199 Gear VR Innovator Editions .
According to their blog , the newest Gear VR will be compatible with Samsung Galaxy Note 5, S6, S6 Edge, and S6 Edge +, and will be "launching in November starting in the United States, with more than 40 additional countries coming shortly after." No reports of which retailers the Gear VR consumer edition will be sold as of now, but it is safe to assume customers will be able to order the VR headset from Samsung's website.
The content available to use on the Gear VR is not immense, yet what is be available is rather intriguing. The most notable of these apps and games (the full list is promoted here ) are Minecraft, Sonic the Hedgehog, Pac-Man, Hulu, Twitch, and Netflix ( NFLX ). Furthermore, Oculus has partnered with Lionsgate and 20 th Century Fox to create a movie library for their "Oculus Video."
Regarding the Twitch app for the Gear VR, Will Shanklin of gizmag.com details his experience when he watched the Oculus Connect 2 using the device and app:
"When I strapped on a Gear VR and sat in a virtual living room, watching a Twitch stream with two other reporters, I felt like I was really sitting in a room with them. They were only represented by masks, but I heard everything they said and when they looked at me, it felt exactly like someone sitting in a chair next to me was doing the same thing. It's a more intimate, human interaction."
He continued by writing, "In this case, my fellow VR-ians were only a couple cubicles away from me in the same demo room, wearing Gear VRs of their own, but they could have just as easily been in Europe or Australia. VR is going to let people on opposite sides of the planet have near-real-life social experiences. Real social experiences - not just idealized self images interacting with one another."
The Netflix app, according to Shanklin, does not current have any social media aspect built in. Oculus, though, is currently developing a mechanism that allows users, per Shanklin, "To invite friends over to your virtual crib to watch a movie, and no matter what part of the world they live in it will feel like you're all in the same room."
Being the subsidiary of the company that revolutionized the way human beings socialize truly favors Oculus' odds to successfully integrate social media aspects to its apps.
Despite only being for Samsung mobile users, the Gear VR is at a reasonable price and may very well either force Apple ( AAPL ) iPhone users to reconsider how cool the 3D Touch is on the new iPhone 6S Plus, or simply draw potential Apple customers towards Samsung. The price also allows for a wide consumer base - many people can afford a $99 gift for the holidays.
With all the apps, games, and upcoming features, it is difficult to imagine Samsung users not buying a Gear VR device for $99 when it becomes available in the market. It is also difficult to imagine any other current or projected tech gadget that will be a more popular gift for the holidays. At this time, there are no new gaming consoles from the major gaming companies that will be released in 2015, or, quite frankly, anything remotely intriguing than a virtual reality headset with Netflix and mobile gaming capabilities.
Do not be surprised if sales of the latest Samsung smart phones spike this holiday season, in order to pair with this unbelievably awesome gadget. Virtual reality is the future of entertainment, and the future is here now.
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