Gear VR UX Review


Gear VR UX Review Video and Detailed VR Headset Listing

This Gear VR UX Review will provide a brief overview of the user experience of the Samsung Gear VR headset powered by Oculus. In addition, a detailed listing of available VR headsets is included.

In this brief video review of the Samsung Gear VR I evaluate the user experience and user interface elements of the headset.  A follow-on comprehensive user experience review is included in the article below.

With virtual reality, the science and technology associated with experiencing and interacting with a 360 degree world are now at a price point many will find affordable. Here’s some of the user experience and interaction design elements you’ll be engaged with.

My Recommendations for VR Headsets:

Samsung Gear VR

Samsung Gear VR – For anyone with a Samsung Galaxy S6 or S7 I recommend the Gear VR. This is the 2016 model and at a price point of under $100 is a great way to try out Virtual Reality without spending big bucks.

By the way, the video review I provided is for the 2015 model which is slightly narrower, is in white instead of the better black, and has a vertical/horizontal finger-touch pad instead of the better any direction touchpad controller now available with the 2016 model.

I highly recommend this headset for any Samsung S6 or S7 owners who want to try out the world of VR.

Oculus Rift VR Headset

Oculus Rift – The high-end system with a high-end price, but an excellent choice for gamers or those in the health care or training industry. It’s also a great system for those who truly want to experience the awesome potential of being in a virtual reality world. Oculus Rift requires a fairly powerful PC to run, you can see the specifications at the bottom of this article.

For a top of the line experience there are the Oculus Rift bundles which include everything you need to enter a truly stunning virtual reality world. These bundles typically include a heavily upgraded PC, controllers, headset and are the state-of-the-art in current VR technology. This is THE system for hard-core gamers!

HTC Vive VR system

HTC Vive VR System – Another high-end system designed to let you move around in a room to play games or interact with the 360 degree content is the HTC Vive VR system.

The hand controllers, although great for interaction, are in my opinion a necessary evil. That’s because in a perfect world you could just use your own hands to control virtual objects.

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That I’m sure will come as the fidelity of systems to monitor and measure body movements improves. But for now, the hand controllers offer a very engaging way to manipulate objects in the virtual reality space.

Still, for any serious gamers or developers of education, training or healthcare applications may find, this system provides an excellent platform for end users to experience a highly detailed virtual reality world.

VR Headsets for iPhone

Canbor VR Headset

Amazon VR Headsets for iPhone list – Here’s a listing of popular VR headsets for anyone with an iPhone. It should be noted that many of these headsets can actually accept both iPhone and other smartphones like Samsung.

Of these, I like the Canbor and the Bnext headsets. They offer a nice mix of comfort, features and the price is affordable.

Some headsets are available at deep discounts and many are also available via Prime with free shipping, which is nice. Costs are super-nice too, with most of these VR headsets being well under $100.

Google Cardboard VR Headset

Google Cardboard – There are a wide variety of Google Cardboard VR headsets that are very inexpensive to buy (under $20) which will turn your Smartphone with a VR App into, well, a VR headset.

To be clear, since you’ll be wearing your VR headset for more than a few minutes comfort is key. I’ve not tried Google Cardboard, but from what I’ve seen of the units comfort may be lower than Gear VR and other headsets that have padding and controls.

Still, if you’re looking for a VERY low cost way to venture into the VR world the Google Cardboard VR viewer may be just the ticket.

Google Daydream View VR Headset

Google Daydream View – The Google Daydream View VR headsets are a big step up in comfort (and usability) versus the rather uncomfortable and plain-Jane Google Cardboard VR headset.

And yes, you can pick among several Millennial-happiness-inducing cool colors including Rebel-Alliance White, Battle-station slate gray, or Imperial Emperor Guard red.

This headset is still relatively inexpensive and offers a more comfortable wearing experience. The cost is more than the Google Cardboard VR headset, but for the few extra dollars the much more comfortable user experience is very well worth it.

Amazon VR Headset Best Sellers

Amazon Most Popular VR Headset list – This is a handy list of the most popular VR headsets for use with smartphones.  Be sure to check back often as new headsets come onto the market often and prices are often lower with great sales on prior models.

At least right now the most popular VR headset is the Samsung Gear VR. I suspect a lot of this is because of; the price point being below $100, the heavy advertising Samsung has been conducting to generate awareness and interest in the product, and because many smart phone owners are looking for a good user experience at a decent price, and this headset delivers.

So check out all the best sellers, and don’t be afraid to purchase something that’s not the top of the list. Remember that no two headsets are exactly the same. The performance, user experience, comfort and system integration will all differ and what works for you may not necessarily be what works for others.

Either way, I suggest that if you are involved in UX, Usability, Research or Design it’s time for you to become acquainted with this vastly different user experience.

Gear VR Usability Review

Here are a few notes I took regarding the usability of the Gear VR headset:

  1. You have to take the cover off of you phone to place the phone into the Gear VR headset, kind of a hassle
  2. I wasn’t able to find the Gear VR App in the Play Store, I had to plug the phone into the device first, which seems rather cludgy
  3. If you phone is inactive for too long and goes into lock mode, you have to take the phone out of the headset to unlock it, kind of a pain
  4. Controls are on the right side, making it difficult for left-handed people to interact with the headset
  5. Navigation is a bit awkward and reminiscent of the very early website days with skeuomorphism taken to the extreme.
  6. People who wear glasses should note that your glasses may be an issue. If I wear my glasses with the unit they quickly become uncomfortable. That’s because the sides of the Gear VR unit are pressed rather tightly against the sides of the glasses near the temple. You should note that Samsung recommends people with glasses wear contact lenses (assuming they have contacts). I use my Gear VR without glasses and am able to focus the unit, most likely because of my extreme nearsightedness coupled with my ‘old-timers’ need for reading glasses.
Samsung Oculus Gear VR Home Screen

Virtual Reality aka VR

Virtual reality, also known as VR for short, is finally starting to gain mass, primarily due to the cost of headsets coming down.

In addition, the ability to use a Smartphone, as with the Samsung Gear VR, means the technology has eliminated the need for separate, bulky units with wires.

The Samsung Gear VR headset now retails for under $100, which should make for an affordable entry point into the VR world.

The main question then becomes:

“Now that people can afford to have a VR headset, will they use it for longer than just a few weeks or until the novelty wears off?”

The answer to this is not clear, and will to a great extent depend on the content producers and their ability to use VR to tell new, compelling stories.

More than a compelling story, the VR experience requires content producers to think in 360 degrees. This is a difficult proposition and is something that even IMAX and the Disney 360 movies at Disneyworld do not accomplish. Remember that they only do not show a 360 degree view in any direction, including all the way up and all the way down.

Think about a filmmaker’s camera enabling the audience to look in all directions; up, down, left, right, completely behind them, anywhere! Being able to compose a story in which the audience is in the center will be much more difficult. Gone, or at least hidden elsewhere will be the ‘behind the scenes’ cameras, lights, sound stage, directors chairs, crew and even the craft table!

Beyond entertainment, VR has great promise for other uses including:

Gaming – An obvious fit for VR and something that should increase as the ability to game with a community improve.

Training – Consider the ability to use a 360 view for medical training or other kinds of training in which the trainee can be dropped literally into the middle of a virtual world. There already are training programs available, and I suspect many more are on the way.

Education – As it’s commonly know, being able to see, hear, write and experience educational materials is the best way for students to acquire and retain knowledge. I see many uses for VR in the classroom including for Social Studies, History, Geography and the Sciences.

Travel – There is already a large and ever growing amount of VR travel programming available and I fully expect this to grow rapidly as we move into the next few years.

Community – A tough one currently, as being able to interact with others in the VR world is still in what I consider a nascent phase of the user experience. But as technology improves, the ability to join others seamlessly and with full fidelity inside the VR world will become the make or break of VR system adoption. It’s nice that you can see the Eiffel tower from the comfort of your kitchen, but if you can’t share that experience with your friends and family, well, who knows if VR will last?

Entertainment – Entertainment is a natural, and I fully expect this category to grow by leaps and bounds as content producers wrap their heads around how to use a 360 canvas to paint a story. And yes, I’m expect that in this category there will be growth in the more, how shall we say, adult oriented entertainment content.

Conclusion: Gear VR Review

I hope this Samsung Gear VR Review and the listing of available headsets will help you enter the world of Virtual Reality. For UX designers, practitioners and researchers, I believe it’s important for you to become familiar with this new way to interact and engage with human-computer systems.

Although VR is something of a novelty now, I fully expect it to grow in popularity and use-cases over the next few years. This will cause anyone who is not already familiar with the VR user experience to potentially get left behind!

Oculus Rift PC Recommended Specifications:

  • Graphics Card NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater
  • Alternative Graphics Card NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater
  • CPU Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
  • Memory 8GB+ RAM
  • Video Output Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
  • USB Ports 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
  • OS Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer

Please note. Some of the links above provide me with a small payment if you end up purchasing a system via the link. This small payment helps me continue to bring what I hope you’ll agree is excellent content to you through Useful Usability.  As you can imagine, it takes me days and days to research, write, edit, capture images and put high-quality articles like this together. So thank you in advance for your support of quality content on Useful Usability, and enjoy your new VR headset!