Samsung's Gear VR is now on sale. This is the $200 gadget that turns a Galaxy Note 4 into a virtual reality visor. We've talked about it earlier this year; you can read my initial post if you need to catch up.
Since I don't have a Galaxy Note 4 this device isn't really on my radar, but someone over at Ars Technica ordered one and reprinted this list of Gear VR Product Use Warnings that you have to acknowledge before finalizing the purchase.
It's a list that hovers somewhere between amusing and horrifying. So we're told things like not to use the Gear VR while near a balcony, and not to use it while driving. Maybe I'm a little twisted but both those warnings conjured some darkly funny images in my head.
Less funny are warnings to not let kids under 13 use the Gear VR and "Take at least a 10 to 15 minute break every 30 minutes, even if you do not think you need it." Ars' Kyle Orland digs into the warnings in more depth in this related post.
As Orland points out, a lot of this is probably mandated by Samsung's legal department to protect them from lawsuits rather than representing problems that are actually likely to occur. Is someone really going to be handling a sharp object while using the Gear?
But I'd still be nervous about paying $200 for something that I wasn't sure I'd be able to use comfortably. Samsung isn't really pitching the Gear VR as a consumer device; it falls somewhere between a development kit and a product for average consumers; the version on sale now is branded the "Innovator Edition." They say they're targeting it at "early adopters" and developers and hoping this initial audience can help them build buzz for a future when the Gear VR is more consumer-friendly.
In an interview with Gamasutra, Oculus vice president of mobile development Max Cohen (Oculus is working with Samsung on the Gear VR, handling the OS) admits "...there will be some people who notice some flicker. There will be some people who aren't comfortable using it." He points out that you won't see TV ads or anything yet; they still have work to do before they create a truly consumer friendly device.
I have really weird feelings about VR. On the one hand I find it all really exciting but on the other I feel like when I finally do purchase a visor I'll be taking a huge risk. Will I experience a lot of motion sickness? Will I really be comfortable sitting around with a visor strapped to my face, or will it be too distracting for me to enjoy the experience? Will I feel paranoid being so cut off from the world?
I'm waiting for a time when consumers like you and I can go into Best Buy and actually try one of these visors on (though even there my inner germaphobe recoils at the idea of using a visor some stranger just had pressed against his sweaty face).
But as if I weren't already worried enough, now Samsung has me concerned that I'll be "...at an increased risk of injury when engaging in normal activities in the real world" after using the Gear VR. As if I weren't accident prone enough!