Samsung looks to be taking a page out of Google's virtual reality book, with plans to add a controller to the next version of its Gear VR headset. And it's promising plenty of apps that will take advantage of the new input device.
The announcement came at the tail end of Samsung's Mobile World Congress press conference tonight (Feb. 26), right before the electronics giant confirmed a March 29 unveiling for its Galaxy S8 smartphone. David Lowes, Samsung's chief marketing officer, described the Gear VR's as a touchpad based controller that can track your hand motions.
"It opens up new ways to interact with VR," Lowes said.
Samsung didn't have the Gear VR remote on display at its press event, choosing instead to focus on the Galaxy Tab S3 and Galaxy Book tablets it also unveiled tonight, so we only have Samsung-supplied images to go by. Looking at the Gear VR controller, it's definitely more curved than the flat handheld controller Google includes with its Daydream VR headset.
If anything, the Gear VR controller seems to take its cues from the Oculus Touch Controller — not surprising since Oculus builds the Gear VR for Samsung. The Gear VR controller lacks the loops that encircle the Oculus Touch Controller, but it does have a curved trigger, and a couple of button-based controls alongside a trackpad area.
The addition of a controller should be a welcome one for the Gear VR. Up until, now controlling the device meant touch the buttons on the headset itself or connecting a third-party controller. Including a controller in the box, as Samsung is promising to do, should simplify things considerably.
And there will be more apps you'll want to control, according to Samsung. Lowes said a developer kit is already in the hands of app makers, with Samsung saying that more than 70 controller-based titles are already in the works for Gear VR.
Good news if you already own a Gear VR: a Samsung rep at tonight's press event said the device will work with existing headsets.
That seems to imply that other changes are in the works for the next version of Samsung's headset, which the company is calling the Gear VR with Controller. However, when we pressed that same Samsung rep as to whether we could expect changes beyond just a controller in the box, all we got in return was a not particularly enlightening smile.