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Samsung Is Getting Ready to Release a Gear VR Controller

Variety logo Variety 2/22/2017 Janko Roettgers

Samsung’s next Gear VR headset may have a wireless controller, if a recent filing with the FCC is any indication. The controller is likely going to be for one-handed use.

Samsung’s filing with the FCC is heavily redacted, which is why we don’t have any photos of the controller yet. Many other details are also still unknown, but the filing did include a rendering of the FCC label that gives us some clues about the device:

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The shape clearly suggests that it is going to be a one-handed controller, perhaps similar to the controller that’s included with Google’s Daydream View headset.

Sammobile, which was first to report the news earlier this week, pointed out that the final shape may be different from what Samsung included in the FCC filing — but there’s also another intriguing possibility: The bulbous end of the controller could potentially be similar to the PlayStation VR controller, which is lit up with colorful LEDs to allow for camera tracking.

Samsung wouldn’t be the first company to use this kind of technology for mobile VR tracking. Chinese VR hardware startup Ximmerse uses a very similar setup to give mobile headsets the ability to “see” a controller, thereby allowing users to play games like Fruit Ninja in VR.

The key here is that mobile VR currently doesn’t offer any positional or hand tracking. This means that users can’t really “lean into” a VR experience, and controllers like the one shipping with Daydream View also don’t relay their position in the room to the headset.

This means that games can use the controller’s buttons as well as its gyroscope to capture input. However, VR game developers won’t be able to use it as a sword, for example, because the headset wouldn’t know where a user is holding it. Tracking technology like that offered by Ximmerse can solve this problem, but none of the major mobile headset manufacturers has embraced such a solution yet.

It likely won’t be too long until we know what’s really in store for the Gear VR. Samsung is expected to give us an update about the next generation of its flagship handsets, the S8 and S8 Edge, at Mobile World Congress next week, and is likely going to officially introduce both the handsets and the new Gear VR soon after.

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