Samsung Unpacks Gear 360 Camera And Facebook Oculus Partnership, Enabling Consumers To Be VR Video Pros

Samsung was quite the busy bee today, first by unveiling its new generation Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge handsets (we'll have some hands-on impressions to share tomorrow), and then by introducing the Gear 360, a small but potent 360-degree camera that Samsung thinks can turn us all into VR capture professionals.

That's the hope, anyway. Samsung is (rightfully so) trying to capitalize on the fast emerging field of virtual reality. So far, the bulk of VR solutions have concentrated on the content consumption side of things—headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and of course Samsung's own Gear VR (which, by the way, it's giving away for free when you pre-order a Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge). The Gear 360 flips the script and puts consumers in the director's chair with a device that's built for content creation, not consumption.

"Samsung continues to push the boundaries of the mobile experience to extend beyond the smartphone," said DJ Koh, President of Mobile Communications Business, Samsung Electronics. "On the heels of last year’s Gear VR release, Gear 360 continues to push the limits on immersive content – providing a visual experience that makes capturing and sharing life’s moments even easier."

Samsung Gear 360 on Table

The Gear 360 is a light (just 153 grams) and compact orb that can fit in the palm of your hand. it's also splash-proof and dust resistant, so if your travels take you to a glistening waterfall or some exotic location in the desert, you needn't worry about the elements shutting down your production.

When it comes time to record video, you'll find dual fisheye lenses on the Gear 360, each with high resolution 15-megapixel CMOS image sensors capable of capturing 360-degree video at 3840x1920. It can also shoot 30-megapixel (7776x3888) still images—plenty big enough to give Photoshop a workout. When the need arises, Samsung says users can also choose to shoot 180-degree wide angle video and images using just one side of the camera.

While competition in the VR space is becoming fierce, Samsung's busying itself creating its own VR ecosystem. The Gear 360 is compatible with select Samsung smartphones, including the just-unveiled Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge. The pitch is that you can shoot 360-degree video with the Gear 360, edit the content on compatible Galaxy phones, and then view the end result on your smartphone or Gear VR (and of course share it on social media).

Samsung and Facebook

To that end, Samsung even has the attention of Mark Zuckerberg, a surprise guest at today's Galaxy Unpacked event. Zuckerberg and company have a vested interest in VR, as Facebook owns Oculus, but on the mobile side, Zuckerberg wasn't bashful in saying that Samsung's hardware—namely, its Gear VR—is where it's at. And he also gave their Super AMOLED smartphone display technology high praise. 

Samsung Gear 360 and Gear VR

For Samsung, interoperability between its VR-capable devices is key. When the Gear 360 is synced to a compatible Galaxy phone, you can preview your footage in real-time using your phone as a remote. Gear 360 will automatically give you the option to view and save footage on your phone, or share it to social media, all while stitching together captured content.

Samsung says the Gear 360 will be available sometime in the second quarter of this year for a price that's yet to be determined. It won't come with any internal storage, though it will have a microSD card slot supporting cards up to 128GB.