The Gear VR doesn’t feature positional tracking. This may dishearten many virtual reality (VR) enthusiasts, but realistically it is to be expected. The current solution for positional tracking is to feature a camera monitoring a limited environment and the position of a head-mounted display (HMD) within; until a reliable solution is devised for the reverse – using a camera mounted on the device monitoring the environment – it’s simply not feasible for a mobile device to offer positional tracking. However, thanks largely to Samsung’s partnership with Oculus VR, the head-tracking in the Gear VR is nothing less than first rate.
Land’s End, a simple 2-minute technical demonstration, was devised to showcase just this. It’s immediate, easily accessible and direct. There is no fiddling about, limited control and a very simple objective. Whether or not Land’s End ever sees a public release remains to be seen, but in the opinion of VRFocus this earliest stepping stone is perfect for pack-in software to relay the unique capabilities of VR to a new user.
The player begins upon a beach and must look at a floating blue orb. Once their view is correctly aligned the orb will light-up, and a tap of the Gear VR’s touchpad will begin the player’s movement towards it. At this point the recognition that you are not human seeps in; you are not walking and you have no body. You are simply an ethereal being that moves via orbs. Immediate and simple, both in terms of design and use.
The player will move from orb-to-orb, turning their head and looking around a full 360 degree spectrum to find the next. Occasionally Land’s End will mix things up by throwing diamonds at the player. Looking at these and tapping the touchpad to activate them will shift the layout of the technicolour world within which the player currently resides, shifting rock formations or man-made creations to reveal subsequent orbs.
Through their time with Land’s End – a few simple moments and nothing more – the player will be taught the strength of Gear VR’s head-tracking. Looking around in full 360 degrees and the ability to lock your view on a single object for gameplay interaction is hugely impressive, especially given that smartphone motion-control videogames are typically unreliable in their interpretation of a player’s movements. Land’s End was just one of several technical demonstrations available at Samsung Unpacked 2014 alongside the reveal of the Gear VR HMD, and VRFocus will bring you more hands-on reports very soon.