Sam­sung’s Gear VR shows the prom­ise of VR - to­day

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

NEW YORK: Sam­sung made history of a sort on Fri­day by launch­ing the first ma­jor con­sumeror­i­ented vir­tual-re­al­ity head­set. (It comes with an as­ter­isk; pro­to­types and other not-quitemass-mar­ket ver­sions have been avail­able for a while.) And its Gear VR head­set is pretty im­pres­sive as first-gen­er­a­tion de­vices go.

The big­gest sur­prise af­ter us­ing the new Gear VR for a few days: There’s a lot of stuff to watch and play in the vir­tual worlds the head­set opens up. Granted, some of that ma­te­rial is gim­micky or am­a­teur­ish. But the best of it hints at some of the mind-ex­pand­ing ex­pe­ri­ences VR can make pos­si­ble.

The Gear VR is rel­a­tively cheap, too, at just $100. You do need your own head­phones, prefer­ably wire­less, plus a re­cent Sam­sung phone - the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus or Note 5. If you don’t al­ready have one, the pack­age could set you back nearly $1,000. (Other VR sys­tems will also need com­pan­ion de­vices, such as high-end per­sonal com­put­ers.)

Sam­sung de­vel­oped the Gear VR with the vir­tual-re­al­ity startup Ocu­lus (now part of Face­book). It sup­plants the $200 “in­no­va­tor edi­tion” Sam­sung has sold for a year. That ear­lier pro­to­type was mainly in­tended to build en­thu­si­asm for VR and to help de­vel­op­ers start pro­duc­ing games and apps for it. Sam­sung bills the new model as its first con­sumer VR prod­uct, al­though it still re­quires some savvy on the con­sumer’s part to use.


Your phone at­taches to the front of the Gear VR head­set, just in front of the lens for your eyes. Put the head­set on, and your sur­round­ings dis­ap­pear as the phone screen opens a win­dow into an un­real, three-di­men­sional world. As you turn your head, the im­age shifts ac­cord­ingly to give the sense of be­ing there in real life. You can even turn all the way around to see what’s be­hind you. The screen projects slightly dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives to your left and right eyes to give the vir­tual world depth.

The Gear VR wasn’t easy to set up. I had trou­ble fig­ur­ing out where all the Vel­cro straps and hooks were sup­posed to go. I couldn’t get the phone to snap into place. I needed the man­ual to find a lever I had to switch be­cause I had a larger phone, the Note 5. Many con­sumers might need help from a tech-savvy friend or kid.

I also got frus­trated hav­ing to wait for apps and video to down­load - a few min­utes in some cases. The Gear VR can stream rel­a­tively few videos for in­stant play­back.


For­tu­nately, it was worth the wait most of the time, even if many of the videos seemed like con­cepts in­tended to demon­strate the Fu­ture of Vir­tual Re­al­ity or are merely pro­mo­tions for reg­u­lar movies and TV shows. A lot of it is free, though some videos or apps will set you back $2 to $10. And some apps were sur­pris­ingly ab­sorb­ing. The no­tion of the Net­flix app, which streams video to a vir­tual TV in front of you, ini­tially seemed silly. Why not watch a real TV? Well, the vir­tual TV is huge, much larger than what I could af­ford in real life. And VR also re­moves the dis­trac­tions sur­round­ing you such as Face­book. Re­peat view­ings some­times turned up un­ex­pected de­tail. Not un­til a sec­ond view­ing of a Cirque du Soleil video did I no­tice per­form­ers to my left and right. In a hor­ror video, I ini­tially kept my eyes on a woman in dis­tress; only later did I see scary crea­tures crawl­ing out of a play­ground. You’re no longer stuck with what­ever the di­rec­tor chooses for you.—AP WASH­ING­TON: An avi­a­tion in­dus­try task force is rec­om­mend­ing that op­er­a­tors be re­quired to reg­is­ter drones weigh­ing as lit­tle as a half a pound, a thresh­old that could in­clude some re­mote-con­trolled toys, in­dus­try of­fi­cials said.

Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials who con­vened the 25-mem­ber task force on drone reg­is­tra­tion have said they want to avoid re­quir­ing the reg­is­tra­tion of toys. But the con­sen­sus of the task force is that the weight thresh­old that trig­gers reg­is­tra­tion should be set at 250 grams or above, which is about a half-pound, said peo­ple fa­mil­iar with its de­lib­er­a­tions. The thresh­old is based on the po­ten­tial im­pact a drone that size would have if it fell from the sky and struck a per­son or if it col­lided with a he­li­copter or plane, they said.

The rec­om­men­da­tions were ex­pected to be sub­mit­ted to the FAA by Satur­day. The FAA then can mod­ify them, and hopes to is­sue the rules be­fore Christ­mas to be­gin reg­is­ter­ing some of the thou­sands of drones ex­pected to be pur­chased over the hol­i­days. One in­dus­try of­fi­cial said the tar­get date is Dec. 21.

Four peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the ad­vi­sory group’s de­lib­er­a­tions de­scribed the con­clu­sions to The As­so­ci­ated Press, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the FAA asked that the dis­cus­sions be kept pri­vate. The reg­is­tra­tion re­quire­ment would ap­ply to drone op­er­a­tors rather than in­di­vid­ual drones to avoid re­quir­ing op­er­a­tors who own mul­ti­ple drones to reg­is­ter more than once. The op­er­a­tor would re­ceive a sin­gle reg­is­tra­tion num­ber, which would then be af­fixed to the body of each drone.

Peo­ple who al­ready own drones weigh­ing more than a half-pound would have to reg­is­ter them. Reg­is­tra­tion could be done through an FAA web­site where an op­er­a­tor can pro­vide name, ad­dress, phone num­ber and other con­tact in­for­ma­tion and re­ceive a reg­is­tra­tion num­ber. The Con­sumer Tech­nol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion es­ti­mates 700,000 drones will be sold in the U.S. this year, in­clud­ing 400,000 in the last quar­ter.

‘Cul­ture of ac­count­abil­ity’

FAA of­fi­cials said when they an­nounced the for­ma­tion of the task force last month that they hoped reg­is­tra­tion will help cre­ate a “cul­ture of ac­count­abil­ity” among drone op­er­a­tors and al­low own­ers to be tracked down in the event of an accident. The FAA now re­ceives about 100 re­ports a month from pi­lots who say they’ve seen drones fly­ing near planes and air­ports, up dra­mat­i­cally from last year. So far there’ve been no ac­ci­dents, but agency of­fi­cials have said they’re con­cerned that even a small drone might cause se­ri­ous dam­age if it is sucked into an en­gine, smashes into an air­liner’s wind­shield or col­lides with a he­li­copter’s ro­tors.

He­li­copters are the great­est con­cern be­cause they fre­quently fly be­low 500 feet in the same airspace as small drones, said Jim Wil­liams, the FAA’s for­mer top drone of­fi­cial now at an in­ter­na­tional law firm with dronein­dus­try clients. There are no stud­ies on how much dam­age drones of dif­fer­ent weight might cause to a he­li­copter or air­craft en­gine, he said. “I am not a fan of the weight limit be­cause there’s no science be­hind it,” Wil­liams said. The weight thresh­old for drone reg­is­tra­tion in Europe is about 2 pounds, while Cana­dian of­fi­cials are lean­ing to­ward a thresh­old of about 1 pound, in­dus­try of­fi­cials said.—AP

COR­DOVA: This photo taken June 11, 2015, a hex­a­copter drone is flown dur­ing a demonstration in Cor­dova, Md. An avi­a­tion in­dus­try task force plans to rec­om­mend Fri­day that op­er­a­tors be re­quired to reg­is­ter drones weigh­ing as lit­tle as a half of a pound, a thresh­old that could cap­ture some re­mote-con­trolled toys, in­dus­try of­fi­cials said.— AP

SEOUL: This photo pro­vided by Sam­sung shows Sam­sung Gear VR head­set. There are the prom­ises of vir­tual re­al­ity in the form of head­sets that drop you into an­other world and of­fer 360-de­gree views that shift as you turn your head. — AP

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