The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are now on sale and the most exciting accessory sold alongside them has to be the Gear VR, Samsung's virtual reality headset. Given away for free with every S7 pre-order, the Gear VR is clearly a product Samsung wants to promote in a big way.
Priced at £80 (if you didn't pre-order an S7), the Gear VR is much cheaper than the upcoming Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets, each costing hundreds of pounds. It may not have the same features and high resolution as these, but for the money we reckon it offers incredible bang for your buck.
But what can you do with a Gear VR? We have already discussed how to set up the headset with a new Galaxy S7, so now let's dive into the included Oculus VR app store and see what we can find.
VR Karts: Sprint - £3.99
Being a motorsport fan, I was instantly drawn to VR Karts: Sprint. It costs £3.99 and requires use of the Samsung Gamepad. This is a rarity among Gear VR games for now, but I imagine that as apps and games become more complex, many more will have controller support.
Not too dissimilar to Mario Kart, VR Karting is all about racing, speed boosts, and firing weapons at the competition. Driving is done with the controller, while you turn your head to aim weapons at the other drivers, adding a nice degree of complexity to what could otherwise be dismissed a little too simple.
The virtual reality effect works well here, with a 360-degree view letting you turn right around to keep an eye on karters behind you; the physics are decent and the sense of moving while sat still is strong enough without feeling uncomfortable.
Netflix - Free
Next, and while I was waiting for the larger games to download, I tried out Netflix. Here, you are transported to the living room of a ski chalet with an enormous television in front of you. There is also a sofa, coffee table with fictional magazines, and all the other trimmings you'd expect in someone's front room. Out of the window is a snow-covered mountainside
On the TV is the exact same Netflix interface as used on web browsers. Stare at your name and tap the side of the Gear VR to jump right into whatever series you're currently watching.
It's a nice concept and executed well. But as with every use of the Gear VR, the resolution is not fantastic. The phone has a 2K screen (double Full HD), but when viewed through the VR lenses all those pixels which look lovely from 12in away suddenly seem massive. For casual gaming and watching GoPro videos it's fine, but for concentrating on House of Cards it can be distracting.
Land's End - £7.99
As you may have noticed, VR games are more expensive than others. At £7.99, which is a common price for many 'high-end' games on the Oculus store, Land's End seems expensive, but it is a beautiful example of what VR can do. Excellently designed, the puzzle game is a hands-free experience which does not use the gamepad. Instead, you simply turn your head to look at targets and determine the direction you go next.
The game asks you to sit on a rotating chair, as this is a fully 360-degree experience, demonstrated by the very first instruction being to turn around and look directly behind you. It's a strangely calming and stimulating experience to navigate through Land's End, and a good example of how VR games can look great without trying to look photo-realistic, which is something the low resolution can struggle with.
Star Chart - £3.99
More of an educational demonstration than a game, Star Chart is a 360-degree look at our solar system. Another hands-free app (the gamepad can be used if you prefer), Star Chart includes an accurate, real-time simulation of all of the visible stars and planets which you can see from Earth.
There is also a 3D solar system to explore by moving your head, including the Sun and all planets and large moons. All 88 recognised star constellations are included, too.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes - £7.99
A VR remake of an already-popular party game, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is proof that gaming with VR headsets can be a social experience. Two or more players are required, where one, the bomb diffuser, wears the Gear VR and everyone else gives them instructions by reading the game's bomb defusal manual, which you can download and print out for free at www.bombmanual.com.
The fun here is how only the Gear VR wearer can see the bomb, but only their friends can see the manual. So the wearer must describe the bomb as quickly and clearly as possible, while their friends work on a solution and provide instructions. Being a 'procedurally generated puzzle', the bomb is different every time the game is played. Although it isn't required, we recommend you use the game pad with this one.
Esper 2 - £7.99
Another problem-solver, Esper 2 follows on from the original Esper (£3.99) and gives you the role of an agent tasked with tackling an outbreak of telekinetic powers among individuals, giving them the ability to move objects with their minds. As an Esper agent, you too have telekinetic powers and move your head to pick up objects and relocate them.
The problem-solving starts out simple, letting you gets used to the game and the Gear VR itself, but becomes increasingly difficult as the game progresses. The game includes voice over work by Nick Frost, star of Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz.
That is just a taster of what the Oculus store and Gear VR have to offer. We have noticed more apps appearing on the store each day, so hopefully this trend will continue as developers invent news ways to use virtual reality.