Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus

Samsung Electronics launched a virtual-reality wearable headset technology — the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition, built in partnership with Facebook’s Oculus — as the consumer-electronics maker looks to stake out what could be the next big category in the space.

The company did not announce pricing for the Samsung Gear VR, announced Wednesday at the Samsung Unpacked event staged simultaneously in Berlin, New York and Beijing. The goggles are slated to be available later in 2014. Partners for the headset include Disney’s Marvel, DreamWorks Animation, IMAX, M-Go and Vevo, and the wearable device also will provide a range of movies and other video, games and educational content (with availability depending on country).

“The Samsung Gear VR goes far beyond expectations of how mobile technology can be used to consume content, and is a powerful representation of the progressive innovation of the Gear series,” said JK Shin, president and CEO of Samsung’s IT and mobile communications division.

The Samsung Gear VR will ship with a 16-gigabyte microSD card preloaded with a collection of 360-degree videos and 3D movie trailers from major studios.

Content will include: a virtual-reality look at Tony Stark’s lab from “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron” inside the all new Avengers Tower; a selection of IMAX films in a virtual theater; DreamWorks VR from DreamWorks Animation to let users interact with DreamWorks characters and content; Legendary’s “Pacific Rim” Jaeger Pilot, an immersive experience that puts viewers at center of the action; and Cirque du Soleil Media’s live-action 3D VR experience, featuring an act from Zarkana filmed by Felix & Paul Studios.

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In addition, the Samsung VR headset will include M-Go Advanced from M-Go, the partnership between DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor, to provide interactive search and discovery of the premium movie and TV show content; and access to Vevo’s 100,000-plus HD music videos, live concert events and original programming in an full-screen theater experience.

John Pleasants, EVP of media solutions at Samsung — former co-president of Disney Interactive — said the goal for the CE company is to build out an ecosystem of content partners, with the virtual-reality play as one of the lures.

“I’m pretty bullish on VR. I think it’s compelling,” said Pleasants. “But if it doesn’t take off on Day One… look at all the content partners we are now working with.”

Also Wednesday, Samsung announced the expansion of its flagship Galaxy Note series with the new Galaxy Note 4 with a 5.7-inch HD display with 2560-by-1440 resolution and 16-megapixel camera, and Galaxy Note Edge, billed as the first handheld smart device with a curved screen.

On the smartwatch front, the South Korean company unveiled the Samsung Gear S, the next-generation wearable device provides 3G connectivity in addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and features a curved, 2-inch screen.

Samsung’s big fall product launch comes less than a week ahead of an event Apple is hosting next Tuesday, Sept. 9, where the tech giant is expected to launch next-generation iPhones with larger screen sizes as well as a wearable device.

The wireless Samsung VR headset features the Galaxy Note 4 screen, allowing users to experience full 360-degree 3D video. Samsung and Oculus worked with NextVR, which is supplying its ultra-HD virtual-reality video-capture technology and content for the Samsung Gear VR headset.

Facebook completed its $2 billion acquisition of Oculus this summer, before the company had introduced a consumer version of its VR headset. “We are thrilled to reveal the Gear VR Innovator Edition, a state-of-the-art mobile VR experience powered by Oculus,” said John Carmack, CTO of Oculus. “The deep technical partnership with Samsung has enabled us to create a virtual reality headset with world class resolution and performance, all on a completely mobile platform.”

The Samsung Gear VR will be available in “frost white” through Samsung’s online store and selectively by carriers this year.

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