At his GDC 2015 session, ‘The Dawn of Mobile VR’ John Carmack, CTO at Oculus, included lots of information on Gear VR, his primary project at the virtual reality firm. He’s also now said with confidence that Gear VR will “go wide” with a full consumer launch during Samsung’s next product cycle.
John Carmack joined Oculus back in August 2013, under slightly complicated political circumstances, and remained fairly quiet for some time. It was known the ex id co-founder and wizard programmer was working on something to do with mobile VR, but things were kept under wraps for months.
After many rumours, it emerged that Carmack’s primary project was actually a collaboration with Samsung’s mobile division. Eventually the Gear VR, a headset powered by the firm’s new Galaxy Note 4 mobile phone, was launched and it was clear that Carmack’s team at Oculus and Samsung had pulled off something amazing. But the initial release, the version currently on sale as the ‘Innovator Edition’ is essentially a very polished developer kit, designed to test the waters and to allow the company and developers to get to grips with the hardware.
In his GDC talk, Carmack has now stated that the next product cycle beyond the current Gear VR (i.e. beyond the newly announced S6 and S6 Edge compatible version) will no longer be the ‘Innovator Edition’ but instead see a full consumer launch, unlike the limited marketing push seen by the first and second versions of the headset.
The Gear VR launched in December, 2014 in the US and is slowly rolling out to other territories. The ‘Innovator Edition’ device was hardly advertised. A soft-launch, if you will. This was the result of politics between Oculus and Samsung. Oculus didn’t want to put something out that wasn’t their vision of perfect VR, for fear that a lesser mobile experience might harm the market.
After Gear VR’s launch however, Carmack says that Gear VR has exceeded expectations in terms of positive response from consumers, developers, and media. Particularly low return rates also surprised the company. This made the Oculus more comfortable pushing ahead to a full fledged launch, which Carmack said will come with Samsung’s next product cycle, “barring any calamities between Samsung and Oculus.”
During his session, Carmack said that his goal was to convince the audience that Gear VR is going to become a major platform, and one worth their time. He told developers that the time so start is now, especially knowing now that the full consumer-marketed product is due to arrive. “I want to convince everyone here that this is going to be a legitimate opportunity,” he said, with the hopes that mobile VR will someday serve a billion users.