Samsung Launches Gear 360 Camera, but Availability Is Limited

Some Gear 360 Virtual Reality cameras will be on sale at the VidCon event this week, but general availability will come later in 2016.

Samsung Gear VR, Samsung Gear 360, VR, virtual reality camera, virtual reality, Oculus, VidCon, Samsung Creators, 360 content, VR content

Samsung's long-awaited Gear 360 camera has been launched for sale, with a limited number of the devices being made available for $349.99 each at the VidCon conference in Anaheim, Calif., where online video enthusiasts have gathered for three days of events centered on online video.

The specialized, high-resolution Gear 360 camera is designed to allow consumers, content creators and others to create 360-degree videos for mobile viewing and for virtual reality content production.

General availability of the Gear 360 in the U.S. is expected later in 2016, according to Samsung. The devices were first announced at Mobile World Congress in February.

The Gear 360 is designed to be used to also create content that can be viewed on the Samsung Gear VR virtual reality headset, which went on sale last fall for $99.99, according to an earlier eWEEK story.

Samsung unveiled the limited availability of the first Gear 360 cameras in a June 23 announcement, which also launched a new Samsung Creators initiative that is aimed at helping "storytellers" envision and create new kinds of innovative content using the cameras.

"We want to bring the power of VR technology directly to the people" Marc Mathieu, the chief marketing officer for Samsung Americas, 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."

Seminars and classes through the Samsung Creators initiative will be provided at the VidCOn event, according to the company. In addition, the Samsung Creators program will launch a competition in July to challenge aspiring independent filmmakers and creators to develop VR and 360-degree content using devices such as the Gear 360 camera. Ten winners will be chosen in each of 10 categories: Music, Auto, Science and tech, Gaming, Travel, Fashion, Culinary, Cause-related, 4D and Sports.

Also announced by Samsung is the ability of its Samsung VR community Webpage, which was formerly known as Samsung Milk VR, to now support user-generated content. Content creators are for the first time able to upload their own 360-degree videos to the Samsung VR platform for sharing and viewing.

The Gear 360 camera, which weighs about a third-of-a-pound, features two f/2.0 180-degree wide-angle lenses that capture images simultaneously, from every angle at once. The images can then be merged with one click to create a seamless 360-degree image.

After creating content with the Gear 360, users can then use their Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone in a Gear VR headset to view the new content in a virtual reality player. Content can also be shared on social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook. The Gear 360 features a Gear 360 Manager app that also works with Samsung's Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, Galaxy Note5 and Galaxy S7 Edge phones.

The Gear 360 cameras each have 15-megapixel resolution and record video at 3840 x 1920 resolution at 30 frames-per-second. The device measures 2.2 inches by 2.6 inches by 2.4 inches and runs on the Tizen operating system. It includes a dual-core processor, a microSD slot for expanded storage cards up to 200GB, and a 1,350mAh battery. It also includes WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.

Samsung's related Gear VR virtual reality headset allows users to view video games, movies and more in immersive new ways. The Samsung Gear VR is a less-expensive, consumer version of virtual reality headsets made by Oculus, which give users the ability to dive deeper into VR games and to have 360-degree video experiences. Users can play immersive VR games or share 360-degree video experiences with friends with the Gear VR as they use head movements to explore, aim and interact in new ways to play and be entertained. A wide variety of content is also available through the Gear VR, turning the device into a home theater.