Consumer Virtual Reality is (Almost) Here. Brands Should Pay Attention

Virtual Reality is one of those futuristic technologies that has felt tantalizingly close to going mainstream for the past decade (See this Sinbad movie gif from 1996 if you don’t believe me). One of the biggest challenges is that it is prohibitively expensive and technically challenging to capture VR content. That all may change thanks to Samsung’s Project Beyond, a multi-camera device built to capture 3D footage for use with Samsung’s Gear VR headset.

Beyond (which was announced at Samsung’s developer conference) has 16 individual high-definition cameras arranged as a disc—capturing its surroundings with overlapping coverage, stitched together to create a 3 dimensional world. According to Samsung, Beyond captures and processes 35 megapixels per frame—roughly a gigapixel per second.

Beyond is designed to capture content for use on Samsung’s Gear VR, which is scheduled to release in beta before the year is out. The headset, which relies on users slotting their Samsung Note 4 into the frame, falls short of the quality Occulus Rift, but has been reviewed favorably overall.

Why I’m curious: Samsung’s VR system holds promise to lower the cost of VR technology, paving the way for brands  to create and sponsor immersive content that would allow consumers to experience products and brands in an entirely new way. Consider shopping for an Audi in an interactive VR environment or listening to a label’s new artist at an immersive live-stream of their concert.

Unfortunately, Samsung didn’t set a firm release date or price for either device, but given the Note integration and the war with the iPhone, affordable virtual reality may finally be less than a year away.

Watch the Beyond demo here