Samsung just announced a new project using Gear VR called Gone, in partnership with Skybound Entertainment (think Walking Dead) and WEVR. It’s either about the horrors of child abduction, or having a kid full of exploratory whimsy. The trailer is vague on that point.
What’s more interesting than the actual content itself is the deeper ambition of the project, which will leverage Samsung’s Gear VR platform to create tailor-made content people actually want to watch.
In these early days of VR, the Gear VR is a great, popular device that represents the primary portal many people use to experience virtual reality. But as we stand on the cusp of a deluge of VR hardware coming in 2016–including headsets from Valve, Oculus, and Sony–the Gear VR is beginning to look limited by comparison. For example, it doesn’t have positional tracking, which means the headset is a lot like the Oculus DK1 released back in 2012—with all the motion sickness problems included.
Fast Company says Gone will be a narrative driven through “hotspots.” You’re basically an invisible observer investigating particular clues, or hotspots, that only appear for a short time as the story unfolds. So in a way, it’s very much like an interactive game or film where the viewer cherry picks the plot points.
The makers are hoping that every person will have a slightly different experience, and more importantly, want to watch Gone again and again and again. Thankfully, it looks like the perspective is pretty stationary, so this isn’t going to be some Blair Witch-like shaky cam vomit fest.
There’s also the other problem of Gear VR being reliant on the Samsung smartphone that powers it. Ignoring the obvious walled garden for a moment, a Galaxy S6 (or whatever Sammy phone you have) can only handle so much, unlike say, a PC specifically designed for VR. So Gone won’t exactly be the future of VR storytelling so much as an early prototype for VR movies–like how film was originally a vaudeville gimmick before tech innovations allowed it to go mainstream.
Despite all these technical limitations, Gone is the second big addition to the Gear VR platform just this week. The big VR titans may be coming, but Samsung’s determined not to get trampled under foot.
Gone will be released soon through Milk VR, Samsung’s VR channel, and will update with new episodes over the next few months.