Virtual reality is taking a few steps closer to the mainstream with Samsung unveiling a headset that brings the technology to its latest smartphones at half the price of its previous model. The newly announced Gear VR is a milestone for Samsung and Oculus. It's the first virtual reality headset either has released without the safety net of an "Innovator Edition" or "Development Kit" label. It opens the platform up to anyone who owns one of Samsung's four new flagship phones: the Galaxy Note 5, the Galaxy S6, the Galaxy S6 Edge, and the Galaxy 6S Edge+.
The announcements at a developers conference in Los Angeles for virtual reality technology company Oculus represent attempts to push the platform beyond a video-gamer-focused niche. Samsung said its new virtual reality headset will be 22% lighter and cost $99, half the price of its previous model. The Gear VR, which requires users to insert the latest version of a Samsung smartphone into the headset, will ship in November.
Netflix content is available to be viewed in Oculus or Samsung headsets starting September 24, while Hulu said it would also bring its app to the Oculus platform where users can stream 2D content as well as an original virtual reality short film called "The Big One,'' from YouTube star Freddie Wong's RocketJump production company. A Hulu launch date wasn't announced.
Meanwhile, Oculus said it would begin a certification program so consumers can look for a sticker that will identify which computers support its Oculus Rift headset, which is due to come out early next year. Asus, Dell and Alienware will have certified models that cost less than $1,000.