Hands-On with Project Beyond

Samsung’s big reveal at the Samsung Developer Conference 2014 (SDC14) was Project Beyond, a new 360 degree video camera designed for use with the Gear VR. Unlike most of its rivals, Project Beyond films in full stereoscopic 3D, and the hands-on demonstration available on the show floor is nothing less than impressive.

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The demonstration takes you through four pre-recorded scenes, beginning with a costal destination. In each scene you are static – glued to a single spot denoted by a black platform. This, of course, is where the camera was mounted for the purposes of filming. In this first instance you can look in every direction, watching the tide slowly caress the jagged brown rocks all around. A cliff ahead plays host to the edge of the scene, limiting your field of view but in the same instance signifying the quality of the stereoscopic 3D footage; it’s easy to identify exactly how far away the cliff lies.

Following this introduction is a lighthouse. A white picket fence surrounds as you stand next to the towering support structure. Filmed during the daytime, the lighthouse is not emitting any light, however it remains impressive to view the surroundings that the structure has been erected to protect.

The next sequence takes you to the ‘Palace of Fine Art’, a San Francisco landmark, a museum denoted by the columns supporting its intricate architecture. The depth of the groove on each column is easily recognisable, and the decaying beauty of its stone is only surpassed by the surprise entrance of a Pikachu and Power Ranger in the next scene.

The final sequence is, at odds with the rest of the demonstration, an internal scene at a low-key Halloween party. A man dressed in a Pikachu onesie enters first, followed by the red Power Ranger. A number of other costumed people enter the scene and dance around you, tumbling over one another and enthusiastically entertaining with their childish antics and a Cookie Monster head resides on a table and vending machines decorate the yellow coloured walls. The scene was most likely filmed in a university cafeteria, though there is no confirmation beyond the youthful antics and decoration.

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The quality of the video was incredibly high, though the resolution is fairly low given the quality of the Galaxy Note 4’s screen. VRFocus was informed that this first public viewing is merely a prototype and an upgrade is in the works for the final product release. However, at present there are no plans to include wi-fi on-board for the release version, instead requiring Project Beyond to be tethered to a mobile phone or wi-fi enabled device for live streaming.

No release date or price has been confirmed for Project Beyond. VRFocus suggested that a 2015 release would help Samsung beat many of their competitors to the punch, and while the research developer spoken to stated that this ‘would be a good target’ he was not willing to confirm or deny any further details. VRFocus will of course keep you updated with all the latest details on Project Beyond and the Gear VR, reporting back with more details from the SDC14 show floor.

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