Interested in Gear VR? Samsung's smartphone-powered virtual reality headset certainly has our attention, but what does a seasoned tech expert think of it? Here's some hands-on first impressions from Huffington Post's Technology Editor...

Gear VR_Lifestyle

With the newly-announced Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, Samsung’s no longer focussing solely on packing its phones with top end technology; it’s also making a big foray into the world of virtual reality with its Gear VR headset.

We’ve already got the inside scoop from Samsung about how Gear VR works and what’s in store for the future of virtual reality, but what’s it like to actually use? And is it really a sign of things to come? To find out, we’ve been speaking to Thomas Tamblyn, Technology Editor at Huffington Post UK, who’s already spent some quality time inside Samsung’s virtual tomorrow…

‘An incredible experience…’

“I first used Gear VR around a year ago,” says Thomas, explaining that he’d been invited to try out the fledgling tech in its initial, less streamlined iteration. “Before Oculus started accelerating its Rift headset towards consumer release, Gear VR and Google Cardboard were really the only two legitimate options for customers, and I remember initially how easy [Gear VR] was to use.

“I also remember thinking how bold a move it was for Samsung,” he adds. Samsung’s always keen as a company to point out how often it brings innovative new tech onto the scene, and its big foray into VR is no different. As Thomas suggests, the tech giant’s not exactly playing things safe:

“Virtual reality is a high risk endeavour for the two simple reasons that it can be very expensive and it has to win a person over first time,” he tells us. “If the tech on offer makes the user feel sick or hate the experience then you’ve potentially lost them for good.”

samsung-galaxy-s7-VR

Thankfully, Samsung’s keenness on entering the VR scene means it’s had time to iron out the kinks in its VR experience before others have even arrived. “The first Gear VR experience was pretty clunky thanks to a screen that suffered under heavy magnification, and the plain fact that smartphones a year ago struggled with the huge visual requirements. Since then however, the VR experience has improved dramatically.

“You only have to look at the fact that filmmakers are now considering smartphone-based VR as a legitimate media platform to know that the phone you buy today will be more than capable of doubling as a virtual reality viewer.”

So with Gear VR and smartphone-based VR here to stay, where does Thomas think the true potential for virtual reality experiences lies?

samsung gear vr 1

“The potential for me is in education. Just last week I had a play with Mattel’s new View-Master VR viewer for smartphones. With it you can pick a range of subjects from space to the animal kingdom and then explore them in virtual reality.”

Mattel’s latest iteration of its classic View-Master toy may be a relatively simple product compared to Gear VR, but even that’s streets ahead of the ones we all had as kids. And it only points to one thing: VR is going to be everywhere, and it’s going to be big.

“Filmmakers are now considering smartphone-based VR as a legitimate media platform…”

“Even on the relatively low resolution screen of a smartphone, being transported to the solar system is an incredible experience. Imagine it,” Thomas says in closing, “you’re a kid turning up to geography class, but instead of having to trawl through some boring old textbook you just pop a VR headset on – before you know it, you’re standing in the middle of the African Savanna. That, for me, is a spark that can really kickstart a child’s imagination.”

Like what you hear? You can grab a Gear VR headset at no extra cost when you pre-order a Galaxy S7 or S7 edge from us on a Red or Red Value Bundle. Click here to find out more.