The Samsung Gear VR headset has always been a bit ahead of other mobile VR headsets — created in a partnership with Oculus, it’s one the few headsets that uses a physical connection to the phone, enabling extra controls like a touchpad and buttons. Still, fumbling around for those headset controls wasn’t optimal, so the two companies have created the Gear VR Controller.
Mobile VR games and applications are a lot simpler than what you’d find for a home VR rig like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, so nothing too fancy is needed. Samsung and Oculus settled on a remote-like device with a large touchpad at the end. That touchpad can be used to navigate menus, while a trigger button on the back can be used to take actions. They’ve also added volume, home, and back buttons on the base of the controller — basically, all the controls that were on the headset have been put into a more user-friendly handheld controller, which works using a Bluetooth connection to the phone being used in the headset.
Samsung is bundling the new controller in with the updated version of the headset that they had prepared for the Note 7 release last year. That headset has a 101-degree field of view and 42 mm lenses, and has been adjusted to cut down on distortion that could cause motion sickness. The new headset also has interchangeable Micro USB and USB Type-C connectors — that change was originally made for the sake of the Note 7, but we presume that the Galaxy S8 phones will have USB Type-C ports. However, the headset still isn’t capable of positional tracking on its own, something unique to the home VR rigs.
The controller could be in response to Google’s Daydream View headset, which also launched with a simple handheld remote for VR applications. But, Samsung has the benefit of working with Oculus. Samsung’s new remote will work with apps and games currently found on the Oculus Store, and Oculus has prepared an SDK just for the controller, so developers can create games exclusive to the remote/headset combination.
Samsung hasn’t announced the cost of the new bundle yet, something they’re likely saving for the Galaxy S8 announcement in late March. Being a Bluetooth controller, the Gear VR Controller will work with any version of the Gear VR — after all, it’s connecting to the phone, not the headset. Hopefully, that means that Samsung will sell the controller separately, too, but we don’t know for sure yet.