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Samsung is beginning to ship Gear 360 in the U.S., but only to some YouTube stars

Normals will have to wait until later this year.


Samsung’s 360-degree camera is finally making its way to the United States, but for the moment it is out of the reach of most consumers — and not just because of its $349 price tag.

The Korean electronics giant plans to start selling the Gear 360 camera in the U.S. this week, but it is limiting initial distribution of the small, orb-shaped camera to content creators it engages with, starting with those at this week’s VidCon event for YouTube creators.

"We do want, specifically for this market, to build the pipeline of content makers," said Marc Mathieu, Samsung’s U.S. marketing chief. "It's a strategy we are driving for the U.S., probably more so than any other market."

That approach may come as a bummer to some average consumers who would also like to try creating immersive content using the camera. In Korea, for example, the device was made broadly available earlier this year following its introduction at February’s Mobile World Congress

Samsung isn’t saying just when it will go into broader distribution here, but Mathieu said it will be sometime later this year.

While the move could help Samsung to get higher-quality content, the company risks losing its edge in VR, having been the first to create an entire ecosystem from capture to content aggregation to playback with the Gear VR headset, the Gear 360 camera and its Milk VR content store (which is being renamed Samsung VR).

LG, for example, is now shipping its 360-degree camera and a headset that plugs into its G5 smartphone, giving Samsung’s Korean rival its own end-to-end virtual reality lineup.

Google, meanwhile, is setting the stage to rival Samsung with the Daydream strategy it announced at its I/O developer conference.

Both Google and partners will make headsets that work with a range of compatible high-end smartphones, while the upcoming Android N software release will include its own home for VR content.

Samsung was listed as a partner for the Daydream effort, though Mathieu did not detail how those plans will mesh with the company’s own VR initiatives.

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