Samsung Bundles Gear VR with New Smartphones

Samsung unveiled its new Galaxy S7 and S7 edge smartphones this week in conjunction with Mobile World Congress and the CE giant will be using virtual reality to pump early sales of its new smartphone lineup.

Consumers who pre-order those new models are in line to get a Gear VR headset, powered by Oculus, along with six VR games from Oculus. The bundle’s worth about $150 – the Samsung Gear VR sells for $99, and the batch of games go for about $50.

Samsung announced the VR tilt as higher end platforms are entering the market, including the Oculus Rift, which starts at $599 and will being shipping in late March. HTC is expected to release pricing on its VR platform, Vive, on Monday (February 29).

Oculus estimates that there are now 200 app and games offered on the Gear VR platform, and that over 1 million hours of 360 video have been watched so far on the platform.

Samsung also amped up the VR angle this week with the introduction of the Gear 360 camera, a device that lets users capture 360 video and upload it to Gear  VR or share on Facebook, which acquired Oculus in 2014 for $2 billion.

Facebook also announced this week that more than 20,000 360-degree videos have been uploaded so far, with “hundreds” being added daily.

The social media giant also said its new “dynamic,” more efficient streaming platform for 360 video with higher-resolution capabilities is coming to Gear VR “in the next few weeks.”  Per this blog post, Facebook is creating dozens of variants of every 360 video that gets uploaded and adjusts the variant that is displayed based on where the viewer is looking.

“By doing this, we’ve quadrupled the resolution quality of 360 streaming video in VR by reducing the amount of required network bandwidth by 4x — so videos look clearer and play faster,” Facebook noted.