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Oculus VR Will Go 'Full Consumer' With Samsung by Year's End

Oculus VR's CTO outlines the path to "a world with a billion people using virtual reality headsets."

Courtesy Oculus VR

Oculus VR’s mobile virtual reality headset, the Samsung Gear VR, will get a full-on consumer push by the end of the year, CTO John Carmack said today at the Game Developers Conference.

Eric Johnson

Carmack’s talk, titled “The Dawn of Mobile VR,” covered the current state of the Gear VR, which is aimed at developers and early adopters, and is officially dubbed an “innovator edition.” It was originally made to work only with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4, but Oculus recently announced that it will release another innovator edition soon that works on Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones, too.

“Internally, some would have preferred it to be called a ‘developer kit,’ but Samsung doesn’t do developer kits,” Carmack said.

Oculus got its start developing a headset to be used with personal computers, the Oculus Rift. But the Gear VR, which runs off of an attached phone, has been Carmack’s main focus since he joined the company in 2013. No consumer release date for the Rift has been announced.

He reiterated a point he previously made at Oculus’ own conference in September: Virtual reality running off a smartphone greatly broadens the addressable market for the technology. The PC may be more powerful, but mobile phones point to “a world with a billion people using virtual reality headsets,” Carmack said.

The consumer version of the Gear VR won’t be “radically different” from the innovator editions, he noted, advising developers that what they can get their hands on now is a “reasonable target.”

Carmack also pointed to the potential value of non-gaming applications for the mobile device.

“People kinda like photos and videos,” he said. “We can do photos and videos with virtual reality in a way that is very powerfully better than what you get with traditional headsets.”

Carmack declined to give a more specific time window for the Gear VR’s launch, but said Samsung would be ready to “go out and do their blitz.”

“When everything is ready, ads will be everywhere,” he said. “Oculus is going forward as hard as we can, trying to sell as many units as possible with the next Gear VR.”

“The truth is, we don’t yet know what the best applications are going to be,” Carmack added, predicting based on current data that media would represent at least half of usage. “There’s a lot to explore here. This is a legitimate opportunity.”

Valve and HTC said earlier this week that a consumer version of their newly announced virtual reality headset, the HTC Vive, would launch by year’s end, too. Yesterday, Sony said its VR headset for the PlayStation 4, Project Morpheus, would go wide by Q2 of 2016.

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