The Rumored Scamsung…err…Samsung Gear 360 VR Camera

Let’s start this off with a couple of very important points:

  • Yes, on February 21st, 2016, Scamsung…err…Samsung will be revealing their Galaxy S7 line, barely a year after the S6 line was started (and continuously refreshed), likely along with some Virtual Reality-related devices.
  • I’ve predicted on my science and tech podcast, Sovryn Tech, that Samsung will be–by 2017–one of the two real tech giants on the planet. At the moment, most people think “Apple vs. Google” when they think major tech companies. My prediction is that–again, in 2017–it’s going to be “Amazon vs. Samsung” in the future.

And the latest rumors about what will be coming out at Samsung’s February 2016 event proves both of the above points. The most interesting of the bunch–not to say that people are guaranteed to jump onboard with it–is a camera called the “Gear 360”.gear360

This is a camera that can record video (or take pictures) using two 180-degree fisheye lenses. Each camera in the Gear 360 is (apparently) capable of 1920×1920 resolution. The two together can produce a 3840×1920 panoramic image. It will capture the video for later use, but can also stream directly to a connected phone via a Gear 360 app. The camera can pair over Bluetooth as well, but that wouldn’t offer enough bandwidth for live streaming. It’s unclear if it will stream to a phone by itself or if you’ll need to dock your phone into a Gear VR headset (which will also likely get a refresh this year) to use the Gear 360. The camera will have a battery, so it won’t be tethered to a wall socket.

Also, and this is key, it will likely only work with a new Galaxy S7. It might work with other Galaxy-line phones, but I highly doubt that it will work with anything outside of Samsung’s own device lineup. Samsung has a long precedent of having their accessories only work with their handsets, so I can’t see any reason for it to change now, especially since it has recently been shown that Samsung phones outsell iPhones (which alone lends credence to my point that Samsung is going to be top of the heap very soon as far as tech companies). Obviously, what they’re doing is working.

At first you might be thinking that “walled gardens”, especially when they’re trying to bring in new realms of technology like VR, are set to fail if they don’t open up their hardware or software to work with more manufacturers and developers. But this is where I have to applaud Samsung (and believe me, I hate applauding them). More so than any other consumer devices manufacturer–and I’ve said this on Sovryn Tech many times–Samsung is willing to toss around A LOT of risk capital into R&D. They release devices in fields that most other manufacturers haven’t even dreamed of. The entire Gear line has been proof of this, from the Galaxy Gear SIM-loaded smartwatch, to the Gear 360 were talking about here. And I appluad Samsung for doing it. Serious amounts of risk capital is unfortunately missing throughout much of the tech world, and even in its sister markets like the entertainment industry. Risk capital, in the high 9-figure range, is the only way that hardware in particular gets pushed forward. So good on Samsung for having the guts to keep funding such R&D–and actually fucking releasing the products–even when it falls short of investment.

SIDE NOTE: Don’t believe me about no risk capital in the entertainment industry? Of all the box office hits in 2015, how many of them were original properties that didn’t belong to a prior franchise? Exactly. No risks being taken there.

Samsung is building their own hardware empire, and they don’t need anybody else. They’re following Apple’s playbook, and I think their risk taking and risk spending is going to allow them to overtake Apple at its own game in very short order (and by many metrics, it already has). Hell, Samsung may even take out Facebook, the owners and “licensors” of the Oculus Rift technology that Samsung’s own Gear VR is based off of. And how will Samsung take out Facebook? Simple: Has Facebook released on Oculus Rift headset to the masses that can be had for $100 as long as you have the right smartphone that you could get on a carrier plan for “cheap”? No. Facebook hasn’t really released shit. And their pre-order strategy is sketchy as Hell. Samsung has already put VR–with Facebook’s own technology–in front of millions of people for a price that is incredibly reasonable (only $100), especially when compared to the “official” $600 Oculus Rift, and the $3000 new PC you’re going to have to build to even be compatible with the Rift.

Samsung is a risk taker, and that risk has caused them to be 2-3 years ahead of the rest of the industry. And the Gear 360 is just another forward thinking step.

What do I think of the Gear 360? I think it’s a fine idea. Personally, I wouldn’t mind jumping on that camera just to do a unique VR podcast. I don’t know anything about price, but Samsung seems to be on the track of Galaxy-line accessories being loss leaders for the actual Galaxy smartphones themselves (which sell at a premium that most people wouldn’t pay for a phone, nor need to…unless you want in on Samsung’s forward-thinking accessory hardware). So it’s likely it won’t cost too much in comparison to what other future VR camera developers will be selling for, as those camera developers will have to charge a premium price as they won’t have any other products to make their bottom lines look good in the end.

But personally, I don’t like Samsung. I’m more excited about $100 phones that have plenty of balls for even more demanding mobile users, and really allows people to leverage some impressive technologies and abilities. I appreciate that Samsung is really pushing VR technology forward, and doing the best job (next to Google Cardboard) of making it available to the masses, but I really do hope that another company will take open this kind of technology up at a low price point, and to work with as varied a parent device as possible, be it an Android (or Dark Android) device, an iOS device, or even a PC.

Either way, VR is here. My 90’s self couldn’t be happier about that.

Carpe lucem!