At VidCon in Anaheim, California, Wednesday, Samsung strengthened its commitment to virtual reality with a number of announcements including a new initiative to support VR storytellers, an official U.S. launch for its Gear 360 consumer camera, and a rebrand of its Milk VR service that opens it up to even more content creators.
Samsung announced the Gear 360 earlier this year at Mobile World Congress. While the consumer 360 camera has since gone on sale in other parts of the world, it hasn’t yet become available for purchase in the United States. Wednesday Samsung announced it would be making the camera available on a limited basis at VidCon for $349.99, marking the first time the camera has been available for U.S. buyers. Additional details about the camera’s availability will be released later this year.
As consumer VR cameras go, the Gear 360 is currently one of the best options out there. The ball-shaped camera has two fish-eye lenses on each side of it, capable of taking photos or shooting video simultaneously. When paired with a Galaxy S7, those images can be stitched together and shared as a 360 or VR video directly from your smartphone. In addition to being viewed on your phone, they can also be viewed with a VR headset such as Gear VR or Google Cardboard.
When it comes to how to share those 360 videos you shoot, Samsung has you covered there as well. The company rebranded Samsung Milk VR as simply Samsung VR Wednesday, and added the ability to upload user-generated content to the service. While you can certainly still share the videos you shoot on places like YouTube and Facebook, the aim is to make the shooting-to-sharing process as seamless as possible, and create an "end-to-end VR ecosystem" within Samsung's products.
Milk VR was previously only available for brands and other larger content partners. The service currently includes VR content from entities such as Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers.
During VidCon, Samsung will be running several seminars and classes for filmmakers and influencers on VR. The company is also working with Casey Neistat, popular YouTuber and cofounder of the social media site Beme, to curate VR content from YouTube and highlight content creators who are doing something particularly interesting with the medium through a new program called Samsung Creators.
Next month, they’ll take things a step further with a competition, where indie filmmakers and creators will create VR/360 content using Samsung’s VR products and will compete in 10 different categories: Music, Auto, Science and Tech, Gaming, Travel, Fashion, Culinary, Cause-related, 4D, and Sports.
"We want to bring the power of VR technology directly to the people," Samsung Electronics America’s chief marketing officer Marc Mathieu said in a statement. "To help creators learn and perfect the art of VR storytelling, we’ve built an entire VR ecosystem that pushes beyond the frame and empowers them to develop unforgettable, immersive stories, and inspires us all to do the same."