Samsung Gear VR New User Guide and Technical Support
Virtual reality is difficult to understand until you try it for yourself. It is a technology that makes you feel like you are actually inside a virtual environment- as if you have been transported to a different place.
You have a wide field of view compared to a monitor or TV, true 3D (not fake like 3D TV), the scale of objects is correct, and you can look around, and in fully tracked headsets (like the Oculus Rift for gaming PCs) even move around. With fully tracked VR controllers, you can even interact with virtual objects. This image illustrates the difference between using traditional screens and VR.
What can I do in VR?
- Play VR games– games where you are actually inside the game world
- Talk to friends or strangers as if they’re actually beside you with social VR apps
- Experience something that you cannot or could not in real life in VR experiences
- Watch VR films, which place you inside an environment and tell a story with characters and narrative
- Watch 360 degree videos by simply looking around them with your head
- Watch or play your existing 2D games and movies on a huge virtual cinema screen
What is the Gear VR?
The Gear VR is a virtual reality (VR) headset that is powered by a flagship Samsung smartphone and the Oculus mobile software platform*, which come together to create a portable, high-quality virtual reality experience. When a compatible device is docked the Oculus Home environment automatically launches and provides easy access to a wide range of games, apps and experiences.
*the following article provides some insight into development of the Gear VR and the Samsung/Oculus partnership: https://techcrunch.com/2014/09/03/samsung-gear-vr-oculus-ceo-brendan-iribe/
Which phones are compatible with Gear VR?
The Gear VR platform is exclusively compatible with the following Samsung devices:
- Note 9 (requires the SM-R325 and a new Note 9 compatible Type-C adapter available from Samsung)
- S9, S9+ (officially requires the SM-R325, though some people are using the SM-R324 with these phones without issue)
- A8 (2018), A8+ (2018) (requires the SM-R325*)
- Note 8 (requires the SM-R325)
- S8, S8+ (requires the SM-R324 or newer)
- S7, S7 Edge
- S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+
- Note 5
*the A8 reportedly also works with the SM-R324
What is the difference between the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Gear VR models?
The 2016 model (SM-R323), the first 2017 model (SM-R324, aka “Gear VR with Controller”) and the second 2017 model (SM-R325, aka “Gear VR with Controller (Galaxy Note8 Edition)”) are all fundamentally the same in terms of the quality of the user experience offered by the headset. However please note the following functional differences (minor cosmetic variations aside):
- both the SM-R324 and SM-R325 come bundled with the Gear VR controller
- both the SM-R324 and SM-R325 ship with a different Type-C modular connector to facilitate proper device alignment for the S8/S8+ and Note 8 respectively
- the SM-R325 has some tweaks to the retention mechanism for proper compatibility with the Note 8
- the SM-R325 does not have a volume adjustment rocker on the headset itself — volume can still be adjusted using the Gear VR controller, or via the Universal Menu (see manual)
Compared to the 2015 (SM-R322) version the newer models feature somewhat larger lenses, a larger eye-to-lens distance, an all black interior, a flat rather than indented touchpad, a Home button, a Type-C multipurpose jack that supports USB peripherals, and a different screen rendering profile that maximizes display utilization.
Is the 2016 Gear VR (SM-R323) compatible with the S8 and/or the S8+?
No, not really. Aside from the fact that a significant percentage of SM-R323 models do not come bundled with a Type-C connector at all*, if you are lucky enough to get one it wont be the correct one anyway because it was designed for the Note 7, not the S8/S8+. As such it is shaped/contoured differently and situates the Type-C port at a different height. You can make the connection anyway but you’ll end up with device/display alignment issues and other potential problems associated with the mismatch (which might include additional stress on the connector itself).
It is possible however to use an SM-R324 Type-C connector with the SM-R323 Gear VR as the modular connection itself is the same.
How is the Gear VR different from products like the Oculus Rift?
PC VR systems like Oculus Rift require a high-end PC in order to function. However being tethered to a PC allows these products to offer sophisticated positional head and controller tracking which can offer a much greater degree of interactive immersion. The Gear VR, as a consequence of being a portable self-contained virtual reality product, is currently limited to rotational tracking only*, both for the headset itself and the newly released Gear VR motion controller. So while you can look around, interact with objects using the Gear VR motion controller (and other inputs), and utilize artificial locomotion methods, real-world positional changes can not be translated into the virtual world.
How much does the absence of positional tracking affect the Gear VR experience?
It depends on what you’re doing, and how clever developers are at working around the limitations. Some experiences, particularly those that utilize the Gear VR controller, can still be highly engaging. Other experiences, like watching a 3D movie in a virtual cinema, or viewing a 360 degree clip, typically don’t benefit much (or at all) from positional tracking anyway. But it does place a hard limit on the degree to which you can realistically interact with the virtual environment.
How is the Gear VR platform different from Google’s Carboard platform?
The Gear VR platform is exclusively compatible with high-end Samsung Galaxy devices that have low-level software features and optimizations that are specific to the VR use case*, and offers the following advantages over the more broadly compatible Cardboard platform:
- high-quality motion sensors (and sensor data management/fusion) that offer smooth, responsive drift-resistant head tracking
- low-persistence for reduced motion blur
- access to a library of highly optimized software that is required to meet strict design and performance guidelines that ensure a premium experience
- the Oculus Home environment, which allows seamless switching from one type of VR experience to the next without having to remove the headset
- proper phone/headset pairing, which matches the optical field of view to the rendered field of view, and faciliates near-perfect distortion correction
- compatibility with the Gear VR motion controller
All of these factors and more serve to enhance the immersiveness of the mobile VR experience.
* few of which are available when using a Gear VR compatible phone with a Cardboard headset
What is the Gear VR controller?
The Gear VR controller is a motion controller (somewhat similar to a Nintendo WiiMote) that was introduced with the 2017 Gear VR model. It lets you point at UI elements independently of your head gaze, interact with virtual objects via throwing, shaking, flicking and tilting gestures, and can emulate activities such as holding, aiming and shooting a gun, swinging a golf club, casting a fishing rod, using a HOTAS/flight stick, and more.
All 2017 Gear VR headsets are bundled with the controller but owners of earlier models can buy it separately too (it works with all currently supported phones and Gear VR models).
Do I need the Gear VR controller?
Though it is not strictly necessary in general there are a small number of titles (Dead and Buried for example) that require the Gear VR controller, and a growing number of titles that are greatly enhanced by this particular input method when it comes immersion and engagement.
Can I substitute a third-party controller for the Gear VR controller?
No. The Gear VR controller has a gyroscope, an accelerometer and a magnetometer which facilitates tracking of rotational movement, and is the only such controller that is supported by the Gear VR platform.
How much does the Gear VR cost?
The most recent version of the Gear VR + Controller bundle, which is the SM-R325, usually costs ~$130.
You can buy it from the following sources:
Other Countries coming soon.
(older models of the Gear VR can be found for considerably less but please check compatibility here)
Can I wear my glasses in the Gear VR?
The official stance on the matter is that you shouldn’t, and that you should utilize the focus adjustment wheel on the top of the Gear VR headset instead. But if you have a really strong prescription, or your prescription is very different for each eye, or if you have a significant degree of astigmatism, you might prefer to ignore that advice. Ideally you’d want a pair of glasses with small frames, and you should take care not to scratch the lenses.
Will VR make me sick?
The hardware itself does not make you sick. Certain types of VR content has the capability to make you feel sick. Whether it does or not varies from person to person.
On the Oculus store all apps/games are given a comfort rating that tells you whether it could make you sick or not: ‘Comfortable’, ‘Moderate’, and ‘Intense’.
If you stick to ‘Comfortable’ content you’ll probably be fine.
Do I need a gamepad?
A gamepad is required for more traditional games with higher depth that require many inputs, such as Minecraft VR. Other games, while supporting multiple input methods, might offer a greater degree of control via gamepad input. Generally speaking a gamepad is a useful peripheral for anyone who wants to get the most out of the Gear VR platform.
Which gamepads are supported?
The official list from Oculus includes the Samsung El-GP20 and the Moga Pro. However a number of other controllers work just fine as well, including the Xbox One S controller (with the latest firmware). You might also enjoy some degree of success with any number of other bluetooth gamepads designed for use with Android devices, though the input mappings may or may not be correct across all the titles on the Gear VR platform.
Can I use a Keyboard and/or Mouse with my Gear VR?
Yes, you can pair a bluetooth mouse and keyboard for use in apps like Samsung Internet, complete with full cursor control. Outside of Samsung Internet there is no cursor control but the mouse buttons remain functional and swiping actions are supported for navigation.
Can I use USB peripherals?
Yes, if you have a 2016 (SM-R323) or 2017 (SM-R324, SM-R325) Gear VR.. Supported devices include USB keyboards, USB mice, wireless dongle mice§, some USB gamepads and other USB input devices, USB speakers (audio passthrough does work with the Gear VR platform so USB DACs might work as well), USB storage devices (formatted with a FAT or exFAT filesystem) and various combinations of these devices and more when utilizing a USB hub (which may or may not need to be powered depending on the device load).
* The S6 Innovator Edition Gear VR passes USB Host mode through to its external USB port as well but in this case you must connect your desired peripheral before you insert your phone so OTG mode “wakes up”
† The white 2015 SM-R322 Gear VR does not offer this functionality
‡ You can not use the small white charging adapter that comes with the 2016/17 Gear VR in combination with a Micro USB OTG adapter because it doesn’t pass through data in this scenario
§ While USB and wireless dongle mice work for basic navigation, they do not provide cursor control in the Samsung Internet app
Which USB gamepads might work?
So far we’ve had success reports for the following gamepads:
- Wired Xbox 360 controller (must be the wired version specifically; wireless Xbox 360 gamepads do not work when connected via USB)
- Logitech F310
- Sony DualShock 3 (when connected via USB)
- Sony DualShock 4 (when connected via USB)
However please note that mappings may or may not be correct across all titles on the platform.
We’ve also had one success report for the Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas X when used with End Space specifically.
Does the Gear VR support USB tethering?
No. As a consequence of containing components that need to be hosted over the USB interface the Gear VR locks the phone into USB host mode and thereby prevents it from becoming a slave to a PC, which is what is required for USB tethering.
However if you’re trying to improve Riftcat streaming performance, and you have an S8, S8+, Note 8, S9 or an S9+*, and a Gear VR model with a multipurpose jack, you might consider experimenting with a USB to Ethernet adapter.
*earlier devices do not have Ethernet support
Can I use my Gear VR while laying down?
Yes and no. While this is not possible with most of the titles on the platform, it is certainly possible with the main Oculus Home environment itself and most media-focused applications.
Samsung VR: double-click the back button (just like you double-click a mouse) while facing in the desired direction
Oculus Video: select the Void Theater option then tap on the touchpad to reposition when looking around
Samsung Internet: double-click the back button, or tap to reposition
Samsung Gallery: double-click the back button, or tap to reposition
Samsung PhoneCast VR: tap to reposition
Netflix: Select the VOID THEATER graphic at the far left of the wooden beam that runs above the TV — also has a “travel mode” which dynamically adjusts to match your orientation
Pigasus VR Media Player: select the Void Theater and tap to reposition, also has a “Sticky Screen” option that anchors the video to the center of your view
Skybox VR Player: change the cinema scene to VOID or Space Station and then tap and hold on the screen to drag it around (or use the orientation sliders in the “Advanced Setting” section) — also has a sticky (Lock Screen) option
Moon Player: tap to reposition, or use the sticky option as above
Plex VR: click and hold the touchpad button on the Gear VR controller while pointing at the screen to drag it around (or tap and hold on the headset touchpad while looking at the screen)
To reorient the Oculus Home environment choose Settings > Reset View (from the main panel), assume your desired orientation, and then click the trigger or touchpad button on the Gear VR controller, or tap the Touchpad on the side of the Gear VR.
note: sticky/locked screen modes can induce VR sickness in some people so should be used with care
Can I stream video content to my Gear VR across a local network?
Yes, there are a number of ways to do this:
Pigasus VR Media Player: allows you to stream directly from a UPnP/DLNA-enabled media server (Emby, Plex, a NAS etc), and as of version 2.0.0 offers support for Windows/Samba shares as well — see the Pigasus FAQ for further details
Skybox VR Player: offers a simple proprietary streaming solution in the form of a Windows/Mac OS client called “AirScreen”, and also supports streaming from UPnP/DLNA-enabled media servers
Moon Player: offers a simple streaming solution in the form of a Windows/Mac OS “Air Play” client
Plex VR: the official Plex Media Server client for the Gear VR platform
Samsung PhoneCast VR: currently only available for Note 8, S8 and S9 devices, and currently supports flat 2D content only, but can run a wide range of standard Android apps (like Kodi) on a virtual cinema screen in VR thereby allowing the Gear VR platform to essentially “import” the streaming capabilities of other media players
Samsung VR: supports streaming from NAS, LAN and web servers via multiple methods as of version 1.78.4 support for browsing DLNA media servers directly has also been added
Samsung Gallery: supports streaming from UPnP/DLNA-enabled media servers (as of version 2.4.19)
Samsung Internet: supports streaming from UPnP/DLNA-enabled media servers (as of version 5.6.00.7)
Additionally, if your media server makes a web interface available through which your hosted content is accessible you can enjoy some degree of success streaming content that way with both Samsung Internet and the Oculus Browser.
Can I run Google cardboard apps with my Gear VR?
Yes, but there are a few things you’ll need to do. First you’ll need a way to prevent the Oculus Home environment from automatically launching when you insert your phone. Aside from finding creative ways to bypass the USB connection you can utilize a software solution, like this:
If you’re rooted you can also find some free solutions on the Play Store.
Next up you’ll need a Cardboard QR code for proper distortion correction. Some of the best ones can be found at the bottom of the calibration reports found here. If you have a 2017 Gear VR you can use the QR code created for the 2016 version as the required distortion correction profile is the same.
Remember to reenable Gear VR mode (or the Gear VR Service if you’re using Package Disabler Pro) when you’re done.
Can I run standard Android apps with my Gear VR?
If you have an S8, S8+, Note 8, S9 or an S9+, yes. You’ll need Samsung’s PhoneCast VR app which can display standard Android apps on a virtual cinema screen in VR.