Q&A: Todd Selwyn on mobiles and virtual reality

Following the Magnify conference on virtual and augmented reality last week, Francis Cook talked with Samsung Head of Product (Mobile) Todd Selwyn about growth in this new technology frontier.
Todd Selwyn, Head of Product for Samsung New Zealand. Photo / Supplied
Todd Selwyn, Head of Product for Samsung New Zealand. Photo / Supplied

Q: Samsung Gear VR feels a like a technology without an application - hardware came to the market fast and, so far, the only virtual reality (VR) experiences available are quite promotional and short. Do you think content providers will begin to tap the market soon?

A: It's true - they are short demos mostly, but the app store for Oculus is growing every day. I don't agree it is without an application - apps like Netflix and web browsing have proved very effective since they arrived and all a person needs is a GoPro rig or a 360 camera, which are becoming more readily available, to create their own content and upload it to Facebook or YouTube.

Q: Do you think people can expect to have longer experiences in future or are shorter ones better?

A: Not really - Gear VR isn't designed for use for hours on end; in any case the phone would run flat. Virtual reality tends to overwhelm the senses to people who first try it, it's fast moving and hard-hitting. It's a snacking type thing.

Q: It's true that it's hard to go for a long time wearing it - you can't reach for a beer without risk of knocking it over and it's quite isolating. Do you think there will be a way to have objects in the real world appear on screen so we don't risk spilling tea or red wine all over ourselves?

A: That's called "mixed reality", it's been done by HTC Vive, showing real world objects in case people get too close to them. It's going to take a while to get there, but definitely it's possible in the future.

What I find interesting is ideas like doing grocery shopping in virtual reality and being able to browse isles rather than trying to remember everything you need.

Q: Have you seen an uptake in sales of phones and headsets since the hardware was released?

A: Absolutely. I can't say there's a correlation between phone sales and headsets but sales have improved greatly. Since we released the second generation of Gear VR, sales of headsets went up 600%.

Q: China are investing huge amounts in virtual reality hardware, does the prospect of cheaper phones and headsets coming out of China concern you?

A: We're always competing with China so it's an everyday issue with us. We won't beat them on price, so we have to offer something different - we need to have a premium experience with software and applications.

Q: How can companies get on board with branding in virtual reality?

A: It's as simple as using 360 cameras for filming and uploading to Facebook or YouTube. Anyone can do it and it's going to become easier and more accessible. All the big advertising agencies are ready for VR, if not already doing it.

Q: Have you heard of any reported injuries from people using the headset?

A: No, not really. One woman at Auckland City Limits got a bit excited and hit her head on the table. She put the headset back on and did it again right away, but she said she was fine. It's designed to be used while sitting, so people shouldn't be injuring themselves.

- NZ Herald

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