Samsung's Gear VR headset provides a great experience for its $99 price point, but it can't match up to some of the incredible stuff you can do with a motion tracking system, like the one available with HTC's Vive Pre. So last night at the SXSW festival in Texas Samsung introduced a new piece of hardware, Entrim 4D headphones, which give the user a sensation of movement by tricking the body with "specific electric messages to a nerve in the ear."
Samsung has a super sci-fi name for this technology: Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation or GVS. According to vestibular.org, the website of a society dedicated to understanding vestibular disorders, "Sensory information about motion, equilibrium, and spatial orientation is provided by the vestibular apparatus, which in each ear includes the utricle, saccule, and three semicircular canals. The utricle and saccule detect gravity (vertical orientation) and linear movement."
In its press release Samsung describes the headphones method for activating this system in your body, and some potential use cases for the technology. "Electrical signals—like the ones used to help restore balance in stroke patients—are delivered via headphones equipped with electrodes that correspond with movement data input by engineers. Users thus feel as if they are a part of the on-screen action, and can also sense direction and speed of movement. And, when paired with the team’s Drone FPV, which utilizes data from the drone’s motion sensors, they can even feel like they are flying."
"Virtual reality shouldn’t be experienced only with the eyes," says Samsung's Steve Jung, the project's creative lead. "With Entrim 4D, we hope that people can experience VR the way it was meant to be—with their whole bodies." Samsung is hopeful that by matching the sensation of movement in your body to the experience you're seeing on its headset, it will not only enhance the experience, but be able to reduce the headaches and nausea many people experience in VR. The company says Entrim is still in the development phase, so no clues on pricing or availability. But Samsung is offering live demos at SXSW, so stay tuned for our hands on.