AUSTIN, Texas — Samsung’s latest virtual reality accessory makes VR way more realistic. The company is showing off new headphones at South by Southwest that tricks your brain into feeling like your moving, even when your standing completely still.
It’s called the Entrim 4D headset, a newly unveiled project out of the company’s C-lab innovation program, and it’s dizzyingly realistic.
The Entrim, which works with Samsung’s Gear VR headset, doesn’t look that much different than any other pair of headphones, besides being a bit bulkier. But inside, the headset is sending motion signals to your brain via your inner ear so you feel like you’re moving with the images you’re experiencing in virtual reality.
It sounds gimmicky, but the technique is surprisingly effective. I felt the difference the minute I put the headphones on — even before I picked up the Gear VR. In fact, this was the most unsettling part of my entire demo. The headphones don’t provide vibrations or any type of physical feedback so they don’t physically feel different than any other type of headphones. Yet the motion effects were instantly unsettling — like having the spins after a night of drinking.
Luckily, the effect was much better once I started the demo, which was a first person view of driving around a race track. The demo switched between turning the motion effects on and off and the difference was dramatic. When the effects were on, I found that not only did it feel more realistic, I was far better at steering myself around the track.
I also tried a demo where I was on a rollercoaster but the effect, surprisingly, wasn’t as dramatic since it was a first person view of watching others on a rollercoaster, rather than a first person view of actually riding it.
Here’s Samsung’s explanation of what’s going on:
Using a combination of algorithms and Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS), a safe and simple technique that sends specific electric messages to a nerve in the ear, the VR accessory synchronizes your body with changing movements in video content.
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.
Of course, it’s still somewhat of an experiment so it’s not clear when, or even if, the Entrim 4D will be released as an official accessory. Samsung says that the technology could help alleviate the nausea and dizziness some people experience in VR and the company is also working on a way to add “rotational motion.”