If you’re going to launch a virtual reality headset designed to blow your mind, you need to hatch some virtual reality experiences to match, and naturally, Samsung has done just that with its Gear VR headset.
What is it? A world-first shark dive film designed to showcase innovative content for its actual new virtual technology, which journalists saw a preview of when Samsung originally launched the Note 4, Note Edge, Gear S watch and Gear VR headset at the Opera House in late September 2014, as I wrote about here when I briefly worked at a different site.
As I explained in that article, Samsung’s launch (which was before product was actually available in stores) had several Gear VR headsets in operation for people to trial, and there were several virtual realities to experience.
One was showing 360 degree imagery underwater of actual recorded footage, with schools of fish swimming around, sharks swimming closely by and the shimmering water really giving you the feel of being an underwater diver, but without a breathing tube stuck in your mouth. Looking up, I could see the outline of the boat the camera person who recorded the footage would have jumped from, and you could look all the way down into the depths. It was very immersive experience that was extremely cool.
Update 5.40pm: I just received a tweet from @RapidVR who said "Stoked you enjoyed the #GearVR #SharkDive! We're the 360˚ VR production company who filmed it. Lots more VR films on the way!"
Original story continues:
Another demo had Cirque de Soleil performers doing their thing. Putting the headset on, several clownish types came towards me and then sat to my left and my right. Two men then appeared and got onto a descending rope which then went up, with the two men doing acrobatic feats and spins.
There were also movie trailers to watch and more.
Now, Samsung has launched that dive under the sea as an actual movie, making it available to the public right now in Australia in its two Samsung Experience Stores - the one on George St in Sydney’s CBD next to Myer, and its Melbourne store at Level 2, Melbourne Central, 221 La Trobe St in Melbourne’s CBD.
The movie is called ‘The Dive’, created and developed by Leo Burnett Sydney, which will be available for free download to Gear VR and Note 4 owners via the Oculus App Store ‘shortly’, and while no more specific timeframe is available, shortly will hopefully mean over the next few days at most.
Samsung says The Dive was ‘created to help bring to life just some of the potential that this innovative new platform holds. It gives users a first hand experience of the sharks’ underwater home near Port Lincoln, South Australia – without bars, cages or breathing apparatus.’
Leo Burnett worked with renowned surf director Taylor Steele to capture incredible underwater footage of the great whites - including an astounding 360-degree shot of the inside of a shark’s mouth, captured when it attempted to eat the camera rig.
This I haven’t seen yet, but as Samsung has provided me with a review Gear VR unit and Note 4 to trial the Gear VR experience, I will definitely be looking out for it on the Oculus App Store to actually experience in virtual reality for myself.
Arno Lenior, Samsung Electronics Australia’s Chief Marketing Officer said: "Beyond the technology itself, what really excites us about the Gear VR is that it's enabling completely new kinds of experiences, and putting them directly in the hands of our customers. The potential for this platform is huge - and we wanted to create something that would bring some of that potential to life.”
Although a picture tells a thousand words, and a video tells thousands of pictures, Samsung is trying to give give online audiences a hint of just how immersive the footage can be in words - and via a VR experience thousands of kilometres away from the ocean.
The company says that Leo Burnett established a Dive Shop for Samsung in Alice Springs, Central Australia - 1,200 km from the nearest ocean.
With the help of director Chris Ireland, Samsung and Leo Burnett invited locals ‘to experience the shark dive using the Samsung Gear VR. Their reactions were filmed and edited into a short content piece to help demonstrate the power of this pioneering device.’
Andy DiLallo, Leo Burnett Sydney’s Chief Creative Officer said: “The Samsung Gear VR delivers a completely new way to experience immersive content using a mobile device – and the agency has pushed hard to create some absolutely awe-inspiring content to showcase it.
“Working with new devices rewires how you think – and we relish the creative and technical challenges of these types of projects. Thinking about how content works when a story plays out all around you requires a different mindset.
“It’s not just about being first to do something – it’s about finding the magic and the hidden potential within an innovative technology that will make those new experiences feel truly remarkable.”
So … The Dive clearly just dips under the surface of what is possible with a VR headset, with Samsung hoping to take as big a bite of the VR market as possible - especially now that its Gear VR headset is finally in stores, with a jaw-dropping demo available to anyone that visits Samsung’s flagship Experience Stores in Sydney and Melbourne.
Google Cardboard VR headsets are widely available but won’t have Samsung’s range of Oculus App Store VR experiences, and neither will LG’s G3 VR headset which was inspired by Google Cardboard, and which isn’t due to come to market until March in ‘limited quantities’ - but it is coming.
So too is Microsoft’s HoloLens headset featuring holograms and augmented reality due at an undetermined time later this year, (here's my earlier article about it and another from iTWire colleague Ray Shaw) but it all goes to show that while 3D might be dead, virtual reality is, at long last, very, very real.