Samsung Gear VR: Reality if you have the right phone

Samsung Gear VR: Reality if you have the right phoneI’ve always wondered what it felt like to be Iron Man. Now, not only was I able to experience his suit boot up, I also got to meet JARVIS and play around with a few of Tony Stark’s toys. I wasn’t dreaming. This was reality, of the virtual kind – also called VR. Yes sir, I did all this sitting on my couch, using Samsung’s Gear VR headset, attached to a Galaxy Note 5.

At the time of writing, the Gear VR supported only four phones from Samsung – the Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+ and the Galaxy Note 5.

My first attempt with the Gear VR presented me with blurry images, which I corrected using the focusing ring at the top of the headset. I don’t wear glasses and while the manual says one should use contacts if needed, I think the eye cups are big enough to accommodate medium-sized spectacles. Navigating is fairly easy; one needs to look at a certain item to point the pointer and then tap the select switch on the touchpad.

My first port of call was the videos already on offer – where I got to surf in Tahiti and visit the PGA Tour. There was some pixilation in the second video, but I blame it on the resolution of the screen; here was an instance where a 4K screen on a phone might make sense. Next, I downloaded Netflix in phone, not VR, mode. But I had to log into it in VR mode. I had a torrid time pirouetting my neck to type in my user name and password using the onscreen keyboard. Nothing matches the sheer pleasure of watching in a personal theatre, and the headphones add to the immersive experience. I decided to watch Gravity. But it was not to be; the built-in gyroscope ensured I was looking at the ceiling of the theatre after I lay down.

Samsung Gear VR: Reality if you have the right phone

Next morning, with a fully charged phone, I decided to tackle an important aspect of the VR headset: gaming. I ended up playing Temple Run VR. It was fun playing it, but if one looked back, the monsters looked downright scary!

Samsung recommends a break after every 30 minutes of usage, especially if one feels discomfort. The phone heating up ensured I couldn’t continue for more than 45 minutes. And two hours of tinkering with the Gear VR depleted the Note 5’s fully charged battery down to 20 per cent – as the headset is powered by the phone.

The Samsung Gear VR, at Rs 8,200, takes multimedia and gaming experience to a whole new level but the phone heats up and the battery gets exhausted. It is possibly the best consumer VR headset one can buy in India at this price point, provided one has a compatible Samsung phone.


BigScreen Lets You Chill With Your Friends in Virtual Reality

BigScreen Lets You Chill With Your Friends in Virtual Reality

You can enjoy all kinds of experiences with virtual reality (VR) headsets, but what if you wanted to gun down your opponents in Call of Duty or enjoy an episode of House of Cards without taking the headset off? BigScreen – a new VR app developed by Y Combinator alumni and CEO Darshan Shankar along with co-founder Hayden Lee – wants to be of service.

(Also see: Hollywood Learns a New Storytelling Language for VR)

“Our goal is to let you use your entire desktop, with anyone, in virtual reality,” Shankar told Upload. “Why use your computer on a tiny 15-inch screen when you could use BigScreen and get massive screens of infinite size? Anything that you can do on your computer – browsing the Web, watching videos, playing video games, and even productive work – you can do in VR on massive screens with BigScreen.”

BigScreen depicts your real world screen into the virtual world in a 20-foot version, and it already supports Oculus Rift – releasing end of this month – and HTC Vive – shipping beginning of April. As for mobile VR devices such as the Samsung Gear VR, Shankar said it’s in the works.

With BigScreen, the company noted, you can “play games in a virtual reality LAN party, watch movies with your buddies, collaborate together, or simply hangout”. Four people can join in a “virtual” party with BigScreen, and can see what the other user is doing on their screen. As for the people themselves, all you see are their floating heads.

(Also see: The Creepy, Inescapable Advertisements That Could Define Virtual Reality)

BigScreen is now accepting sign-ups for its beta version, so if you’re interested, head to the official website to apply.

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Tags: BigScreen, Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, VR

Microsoft India Nearly Doubles Price of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition for Windows 10

Microsoft India Nearly Doubles Price of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition for Windows 10

Microsoft has almost doubled the price of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition for Windows 10 PCs. At launch the game was Rs. 729 but now it’s available for Rs. 1,480. The price hike was first spotted by users of local gaming forum IndianVideoGamer.

While we’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update this story if we get a reply. This strikes us as an odd decision to increase the price of the game a couple of weeks after release. However, it isn’t the first time we’ve seen prices of games change on the Windows Store. Rise of the Tomb Raider debuted at an obscene Rs. 3,439 which was rectified after launch to Rs. 889 (dubbed as a pre-launch discount). Right now, it’s at Rs. 1,002.

(Also see: I Played Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on Windows 10 So You Don’t Have To)

Considering how easy it is for gamers in other regions to switch to the Windows Store for India, we wouldn’t be surprised if Gears of War: Ultimate Edition’s price hike is a preventive measure. Ostensibly done to stop others from taking advantage of the game’s low price for India. It’s something Electronic Arts has done as well. In 2013, it hiked up the price for SimCity from Rs. 1,499 to Rs. 3,499 to stop gamers in other territories from exploiting the subsidised price for India. Since then India’s been punished with pricing of Rs. 3,499 and above for most of EA’s new games. A year later, EA stopped releasing PC game discs for the region altogether.

Nonetheless, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition performs rather poorly on Windows 10 PCs. It doesn’t help that you’re saddled with using a storefront that pales in comparison to EA’s Origin let alone Steam, making the price hike a moot point. Well, for now at least. It will be interesting to see if this is just the beginning of price hikes for games across the Windows Store, much like we witnessed on the Xbox Store barely a year after the Xbox One was available officially in India.

Download the Gadgets 360 app for Android and iOS to stay up to date with the latest tech news, product reviews, and exclusive deals on the popular mobiles.

Tags: Gears of War, Gears of War PC India Price, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Gears of War Ultimate Edition India Price,Gears PC, IVG, PC Games, PC Gaming, Windows 10, Windows Store

Changing gears at India’s start-ups

The Morgan Stanley markdown brings Flipkart’s valuation down to about $11 billion from the $15.2 billion the company claimed when it raised its last round of funds. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

The Morgan Stanley markdown brings Flipkart’s valuation down to about $11 billion from the $15.2 billion the company claimed when it raised its last round of funds. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

In late October, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Gurley, speaking to The Wall Street Journal about technology start-up valuations, said, “All these private valuations are fake. They’re all on paper.”

Gurley, managing partner at San Francisco-based venture capital firm Benchmark, has been openly critical for a while of the dizzying valuations attributed to technology start-ups in recent years. His criticism is directed in particular at unicorns, the common term for technology start-ups privately valued at $1 billion or more.

Until a couple of months ago, Gurley’s criticism had few takers in India’s start-up ecosystem. In fact, back in October, few venture capitalists and even fewer entrepreneurs would concede to a valuation bubble.

Sure, there had been a few upsets. Zomato, the restaurant discovery platform backed by Info Edge India Ltd and Sequoia Capital, had fired 10% of its staff as part of a cost rationalization drive. Food ordering start-up TinyOwl, backed by Matrix Partners and Sequoia, had laid off more than 100 people and shut down offices in some cities as it battled a cash crunch. Property search and listings platform Commonfloor was on the block as it failed to draw fresh capital despite having investors such as Tiger Global Management and Google Capital on board.

But, unlike elsewhere in the world, where unicorn valuations were being marked down with alarming frequency by mutual funds, India’s unicorns held their mythical valuations. E-commerce bellwether Flipkart was still going strong at $15.2 billion. Rival Snapdeal was cruising along at about $5 billion. Budget stays aggregator and unicorn aspirant OYO Rooms had just snapped up $100 million from Japanese investor SoftBank and others, taking its valuation to a reported $400 million. Even seed-stage start-ups were raking in $1 million rounds. What bubble?

In the past two months, however, some of that exuberance has tempered. People still aren’t talking in bubble terms, but they admit that a correction is underway in India’s start-up funding market. The correction is evident from the numbers for the concluding quarter of 2015. A KPMG report, based on data compiled by research firm CB Insights, shows that venture capital-backed firms in India raised $1.5 billion in October-December 2015, down 46% from the $2.8 billion raised in the July-September quarter. The volume of deals also declined to 114 from 139 in the preceding quarter.

The numbers are down primarily because of a correction in later funding rounds, specifically in the Series B and C stages where valuations were most frothy. A quick survey of deals reported across media shows that after September, there has been a marked decline in Series B and C stage deals, especially in terms of value. Compared with the past, only one deal crossed the $100 million mark—hyperlocal delivery service Grofers raised $120 million in a Series B round led by SoftBank.

The ticket sizes of the remaining 15 deals in those stages were well below the $50 million mark. After Grofers, the three largest deals involved e-commerce company Naaptol ($52 million), PepperTap, another hyperlocal delivery service ($40 million), and ethnic products marketplace Craftsvilla ($34 million).

Apart from the decline in deal ticket sizes, later-stage rounds are also in a somewhat different complexion in terms of the investors involved. Out of the 16 deals reported, six were led by strategic investors such as SoftBank, Paytm, Snapdeal, Amazon, Mitsui, and even a local family office backed by the Murugappa Group. Venture capital firms have been less visible, preferring to divert their resources to younger companies at the seed and Series A stages. Not because their resources are running scarce—India-dedicated venture capital funds raised a little more than $2 billion in fresh capital last year, according to data compiled by the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association.

Most venture capitalists believe that valuations will correct further. In January, Mint reported that practically every leading venture capital fund in the market expects valuations for mid-stage deals to be between 25% and 50% lower than the 2015 levels. That, most reckon, will take another 6-8 months to play out, and they’re willing to wait. They can afford to wait because hedge funds, notably New York-based Tiger Global (which invests in start-ups from a separate venture capital fund), are no longer breathing down their necks. Hedge funds, until recently among the most aggressive dealmakers in India’s start-up market, are on a hiatus due to the recent turmoil in the public markets.

While venture capitalists have started to come to terms with the downturn, entrepreneurs are still holding out. This isn’t unusual. Historically, private valuations have always lagged the public markets by a few months. But, there’s no doubt that they will eventually correct. Entrepreneurs can take cues from the recent markdown of the value of Flipkart shares owned by mutual funds. The latest to do so is Morgan Stanley Institutional Fund Trust, which has written down the value of its minor stake to $58.9 million, as of 31 December, from $80.6 million in June.

The Morgan Stanley markdown brings Flipkart’s valuation down to about $11 billion from the $15.2 billion the company claimed when it raised its last round of funds. That’s a fairly big hit, assuming that the lofty valuations that Flipkart claims aren’t, as Gurley suggests, imaginary.

Flipkart is a bit of a lodestar for the country’s start-up ecosystem.

That makes the markdown the strongest manifestation yet of the correction that is currently underway in India’s start-up funding market.

Winter is here. Make no mistake. But, as anybody who’s lived through a couple of downturns would know, it’s also when the most interesting start-ups are born.

Snigdha Sengupta is the founder of StartupCentral, a digital news and analytics platform focused on venture capital. She also periodically contributes stories on venture capital and private equity to Mint.