Why it matters to you
Generally speaking, Samsung’s Gear VR is great in a pinch. It doesn’t deliver the visual fidelity of, say, Facebook’s Oculus or HTC’s Vive, but it’s significantly more portable. And it boasts a growing library of hundreds of games, apps, movies, and videos. The only problem? It doesn’t have a controller.
Navigating around menus and games required finagling with a directional touchpad on the Gear VR’s side, which wasn’t exactly intuitive. But at Mobile World Congress on February 26, Samsung unveiled a solution: The Gear VR Controller.
The Gear VR controller, which was developed by Facebook’s Oculus division, looks a little like a shrunken Nintendo Wii controller. It sports a prominent touch-sensitive trackpad that doubles as a clickable selection button. Below it are home, select, volume, and back buttons; on the underside is a trigger; and near the bottom is a wrist strap to prevent users from loosing their grip during “vigorous play.”
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On the Gear VR’s inside are sensors that track motion, allowing users to point, drag, drop, tilt, shoot, and more.
The Gear VR controller will have broad support at launch. Oculus said that more than 70 new controller titles are already in development, and the firm will make the Gear VR Controller’s software development kit available to all developers in the coming weeks. (Developers can submit their applications for the SDK — and Gear VR hardware — via the Oculus website.)
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If the Gear VR Controller looks familiar, that’s probably because the idea is not exactly a first. Google’s Daydream virtual reality platform launched with a controller, and both the HTC Vive and Oculus leverage motion controllers. But with Samsung’s backing, VR motion controls will be placed in the hands of more developers than ever before.
“We’re thrilled to welcome this addition to the Gear VR and all the potential it holds for mobile VR,” an Oculus spokesperson said. “[Some] of the best experiences […] benefit from a controller to tap their full functionality. We can’t wait to offer the freedom of improved, streamlined controls to the entire Gear VR community soon!”
The Gear VR controller is compatible with the Galaxy S7, S7 edge, Note 5, S6 edge+, S6, and S6 edge. The Gear VR with Controller, a slightly revised version the Gear VR headset, has 42mm lenses with 101-degree FOV (field of view) as well as distortion correction technology that minimizes motion sickness. It supports both MicroUSB and USB Type-C ports with an included converter.