Through Samsung's partnership with Oculus, the Gear VR was the first smartphone-based VR headset with controls built right into the side of the body. This design enables a lot of unique control mechanisms, which has turned into hundreds of fun games and apps every user can enjoy.
In much the same way the headset itself has changed and grown from generation to generation, this control mechanism has been improved to keep things interesting. But it still had its limits, most of which have been addressed by buying a separate gamepad to bring with you when you wanted to play. Now Samsung has a more portable alternative called the Gear VR Controller, allowing for even more flexibility in games and apps.
What can this controller do?
When using the Gear VR, this controller becomes a replacement for a lot of the activity normally done on the headset itself. You can look down and see the controller in VR, and as you point the end of the controller at things you'll see an almost laser pointer effect. You can select things without turning your head, shoot enemies in games, and drag things around on the screen as you see fit.
The Samsung Gear VR Controller is a small Bluetooth joystick, designed to almost disappear in your hand. There's a small trackpad at the top for your thumb to rest on, a trigger on the front for shooting games, and the rest of the Gear VR controls from the side of the headset live on the body. The volume rocker is slightly recessed to make it easy to find when your eyes are busy, and the Home and Back buttons feel very similar the ones on the side of the headset for familiarity.
Do I still need a gamepad?
For now, yes. If you are playing a game in your Gear VR right now that requires a separate Bluetooth gamepad, you will still need it to play your existing games. Some games, like Minecraft, require more buttons than are currently available on this controller.
That having been said, Oculus claims more than 70 games are in development right now with the Gear VR controller in mind. There's also a good chance that, over time, existing gamepad-only games will support the new Controller.
What games support the Gear VR Controller?
Almost all of them, right out of the box. Oculus has ensured any game that currently works with the touchpad on the side of the headset also supports the Controller. Instead of swiping left and right or up and down on the side of your head, you'll be able to do so from the trackpad on the Controller.
It's important to point out that existing games will not have access to all of the Gear VR Controller features just yet. Things like the laser pointer for selecting things or using the controller to pick up items won't be a part of ever game. You'll still be using the position of your head to point at a lot of things, at least until games are updated to support the new controller.
How does this compare to Google Daydream?
Google's Daydream Controller is similar to the new Gear VR controller, but there are some interesting differences. The Gear VR controller includes a trigger button not available on the Daydream controller, which instead has a button under the trackpad for your thumb.
The design of the Gear VR Controller also lends itself to being used more like a pistol in a VR shooter, while the Daydream Controller is a flat wand-like shape. Samsung's controller is also slightly thicker, which is a little more comfortable for larger hands when coupled with the more ergonomic design.
Will this controller charge inside the Gear VR?
The new Gear VR controller runs on a pair of removable AAA batteries, and does not have a separate charging port. Samsung claims the new controller will last up to 80 hours of gameplay before the batteries need to be replaced.
Replacing the batteries is a simple battery cover removal and replacement, but it's not clear yet where the Controller will be stored when not in use. Samsung promises to have more information closer to launch.
Where can I get one?
Samsung is including the Gear VR Controller alongside new Gear VR kits later this year. Existing Gear VR owners will be able to purchase just the Controller and add it to their VR experience. Currently there is no information on pricing for either configuration.
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