10:44am PT by Carolyn Giardina
Oculus Connect: $99 Samsung Gear VR Unveiled; Fox, Lionsgate Content Partnerships Unveiled
Oculus revealed a flurry of announcements aimed at taking virtual reality to the mainstream — including content partnerships with Twentieth Century Fox, Lionsgate and Netflix and a new $99 version of Samsung Gear VR headsets — Thursday during the opening keynote at the Oculus Connect 2 developers conference in Hollywood.
Oculus and Samsung together unveiling a consumer version of Samsung Gear VR head set (driven by Samsung Smartphones) priced at just $99, with plans to make it available in the U.S. in time for Black Friday. The companies said it would support more smartphone models, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge+, S6 and S6 edge. And its being designed to be 22 percent lighter than the previous Gear VR Innovator Edition, with an improved touch pad and new foam cushioning for comfort.
Oculus also announced Oculus Video (a relaunch of Oculus Cinema), which puts a consumer wearing virtual reality goggles in a 360-degree virtual theater where they can view movies and other content that they can rent or purchase for this environment. Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe reported partnerships with Fox and Lionsgate to provide Hollywood movies.
He also unveiled a VR app from Netflix, and reported that Hulu, Twitch, Vimeo, Tivo and other streaming services would also offer their content libraries. “VR is finally here, next year millions will experience it for first time,” Iribe said. “Year over year, VR will build into something incredible."
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, which bought Oculus for $2 billion in 2014, also took the stage during the keynote session, describing VR as “the next great technology platform that will make us all connected. .. In a few years VR will go from science fiction dream to awesome reality that will change the way we communicate and collaborate.”
To that end, Iribe reported that Oculus Touch--a hand-held controller to enable interactivity in a VR experience--is scheduled to ship in mid-2016. “With Touch it’s easy to wave or point at something, or pick up a virtual object and hand it to something in another part of the world,” Iribe said, asserting, “social is going to be a big part of VR. It has the potential to more social that any other [digital] experience.”
Gaming is expected to be a huge area for VR content and there were multiple announcements in this area. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey came to the stage to announce that Minecraft will be available in VR.
And Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney revealed Bullet Train, a new VR experience for the Oculus Rift. “Using the Oculus Touch controller for locomotion, we've built a world-scale VR gunfight experience with gameplay that weaves in and out of bullet time," he said.