Samsung's Gear VR has always been one of the most accessible and more popular platforms for virtual reality, but it's been hampered by a lack of any reasonable input method for too long. Until now. Launching alongside the new Galaxy S8 and S8+, Samsung's refreshed Gear VR includes a wireless, motion-sensitive controller with a trigger that seems to be screaming out for a virtual reality reimagining of Time Crisis or Point Blank.
Crucially, Samsung's new wireless controller includes a front trigger as well as a clickable touchpad and back/home buttons on the top of the peripheral, giving it another point of input over Google's competitor. In Australia the Gear VR and controller kit will set you back $199, making it a little more expensive than existing Gear VR kits.
I gave the new Gear VR a test drive at a briefing for Samsung's Unpacked event in New York, and the controller is a quantum leap forward in actual usability. The Gear VR has always been good, but holding your hand to the side of your head to navigate menus and play games — limited as they have been in scope — has been a low point.
Now, with the motion controller — and it's appropriately sensitive, with an internal gyro also tracking rotation to give you an accurate simulation of the position and angle of your hand — the Gear VR legitimately seems like it might have a purpose as a casual gaming platform. Don't expect to lose hours in it, but I had a great time blasting some House of the Dead-esque zombies in Drop Dead.
Samsung will also sell the motion controller separately for existing Gear VR customers, so they're not left out in the cold. Games that use the updated hardware will be out on the Oculus Store in line with the launch; implementation for developers will be very similar to the existing motion controls that Daydream VR titles use on Google's open-source VR platform.
If you pre-order a Galaxy S8 in Australia — from tomorrow until the new phone and Gear VR's on-sale date of April 28 — you'll actually get yourself a free Gear VR and motion controller, as well as $50 of Oculus Store credit to buy some games to play or content to watch.
Less than 24 hours from now, Samsung will reveal the Galaxy S8 to the world at its Unpacked event in New York. We'll be live blogging from the event, but you should also watch along with the live stream — so here's where to find it.