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Warn­ing: Af­ter time be­hind Sam­sung’s vir­tual re­al­ity glasses, real life may seem a lit­tle mun­dane.

With th­ese gog­gles on your face, you can sail through the so­lar sys­tem, swim with whales, throw hoops over rock­ets, and stand be­side Paul McCart­ney while he plays Live and Let Die.

It’s all an illusion, of course, but it’s such a re­al­is­tic illusion that your en­joy­ment is bound to be gen­uine.

Sam­sung’s Gear VR is the first com­mer­cially avail­able vir­tual re­al­ity head­set, out­side Google’s Card­board ex­per­i­ment, and it ar­rives in Aus­tralian stores this month.

The chunky, but light­weight head­set uses a Galaxy Note 4 phone as a screen to de­liver 360-de­gree videos that feel strangely life­like, as well as im­mer­sive, in­ter­ac­tive an­i­ma­tions.

Users clip the smart­phone into the front of the Gear VR gog­gles, and fit the kit to their heads with two elas­ti­cated straps.

The Gear VR’s pas­sive frame is made of plas­tic, with a touch­pad and back but­ton pow­ered by the phone, and two curved glass lenses look­ing out on to the phone’s 5.7-inch screen.

Users are prompted to in­stall the Sam­sung Ocu­lus app on first use, and cre­ate an ac­count. Once in­stalled, the Ocu­lus app store de­liv­ers ac­cess to a host of vir­tual re­al­ity videos and games, most of which are free.

De­spite its re­cent ar­rival, there is plenty of vir­tual re­al­ity con­tent avail­able, in­clud­ing a Cirque du Soleil per­for­mance, and Cold­play and Paul McCart­ney con­certs, plus a host of in­ter­ac­tive video games, many set in or­bit.

Ti­tans of Space sends you on a course through the Milky Way, for ex­am­ple, stop­ping for a look at each planet, while TheBluVR lets you swim be­side whales, fish and sharks.

The head­set’s lenses de­liver a 96-de­gree view­ing an­gle for an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence, and many VR apps let you turn your head up, down and around to watch video from all an­gles. The whale, for in­stance, swims be­hind you.

It’s not hard to get lost in the ex­pe­ri­ence, for­get­ting your real-world sur­round­ings and mov­ing your head about with aban­don. From the out­side, the ex­pe­ri­ence looks strange, but by­standers to our tests were quickly si­lenced and con­verted with a brief trial.

Sound is de­liv­ered from the phone’s speaker, though users can connect Blue­tooth head­phones to com­pletely cut out the ex­ter­nal world.

Be­cause you can’t wear spec­ta­cles be­neath the head­set, a diop­tric ad­just­ment wheel lets near-sighted and far­sighted users pull its vi­sion into fo­cus (an ad­di­tion that works re­mark­ably well). A sen­sor on the head­set’s face also de­tects whether you’re watch­ing it or it should pause play.

Nat­u­rally, there are some lim­i­ta­tions to this vir­tual re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence. Sam­sung rec­om­mends users sit down to use it, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, but also that it should not be used by chil­dren un­der 13, or the preg­nant, epilep­tic, or those with binoc­u­lar vi­sion ab­nor­mal­i­ties. The worst mal­ady this re­viewer suf­fered was mod­er­ately tired eyes af­ter too much time be­hind the glass.

The real lim­i­ta­tions of the Gear VR are twofold. First, it can only be used with the Galaxy Note 4 phone, and sec­ond, it doesn’t play all Ocu­lus con­tent but a se­lec­tion mod­i­fied for the Gear. While that in­cludes 25 games, five apps and nine video “ex­pe­ri­ences”, how fast it grows will de­pend on de­vel­op­ers.

The Sam­sung Gear VR is a rare tech­no­log­i­cal gem, how­ever, in that it de­liv­ers a gen­uinely new ex­pe­ri­ence ca­pa­ble of de­light­ing ev­ery­one from Lud­dites to jaded geeks. Its mod­est en­try price, ease of use and im­mer­sive con­tent should see many peo­ple dis­ap­pear into vir­tual re­al­ity worlds.


“It’s such a re­al­is­tic illusion that your en­joy­ment is bound to be gen­uine”

Sam­sung’s Gear VR ar­rives in Aus­tralian stores this month.

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