Virtual reality gets real at Mobile World Congress

VR is everywhere in Barcelona. Facebook is talking about it, Samsung using it to show off its new phones and the HTC Vive is almost here…

23 Feb 2016


Virtual reality is everywhere at Mobile World Congress – a tech show known mostly for its smartphones.

But VR has been equally headline-worthy at MWC 2016 in Barcelona. Facebook is talking about it, while Samsung is using it to show off its new phones.

We’ve seen new VR products unveiled, and been told when we can get out mitts on HTC’s swanky Vive headset. Here’s how virtual reality got real at Mobile World Congress 2016, but first…


What is a VR headset?

A pair of goggles with 2 screens that stream data super-fast to create a sense of 3D. They connect to your PC, console or phone to play games and other stuff. HTC, Oculus, Samsung and LG are all making them.Virtual reality at MWC

Credit: AP

Four reasons MWC 2016 is all about virtual reality

1. VR starred in the biggest launch of MWC

When it comes to phone launches, they don’t come much bigger than the Samsung Galaxy S7 at Mobile World Congress.

And when attendees walked into the Samsung Unpacked show, they found a Gear VR headset on their seat. They were asked to pop these on, as Samsung used VR content to introduce the new Galaxy S7 phones. Hitting home the message, Samsung is giving away a Gear VR headset with the Galaxy S7.


2. Facebook is talking about (and investing in) VR video

Mark Zuckerberg – the man behind Facebook – took the stage during Samsung’s Unpacked event. From there, he explained how excited he was by the potential of virtual reality.

He said he has been working to make Facebook ‘the best platform for 360 videos’ and is committed to ‘building the best VR experiences in the world’.

Facebook VR friendly tech: 

  • Dynamic Streaming and 360 video: A clever trick that increases the resolution of only the part of the video you’re focusing on.
  • Social VR team: Boffins at Facebook are exploring different ways people can ‘connect and share’ using today’s VR tech.

Samsung’s Gear VR headset will have the latest Facebook features. You can already buy the Samsung Gear VR, which uses the same software as the Oculus Rift.


3. ‘Simply astonishing’ HTC Vive soon to launch

In the coming weeks another 2 VR headsets enter the fray – the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. The Rift launches in March, while the HTC Vive is coming in April.

Our writer tried out a development edition of the Vive at the CES tech show in January, saying ‘the sense of immersion is quite simply astonishing’.

At Mobile World Congress, the consumer edition of the HTC Vive was shown off. HTC Vive:

  • was developed alongside online gaming platform Steam, with SteamVR integrated
  • can receive and respond to calls and messages while in the virtual world with phone integration
  • shows obstacles in your room with front-facing camera that blends real and virtual worlds

The Vive will come packaged with 2 wireless controllers and 2 games. Hands-on with the HTC Vive at CES 2016 


4. More cool VR tech launched

As well as the headsets we already know about, there was plenty of shiny new VR tech to be seen in Barcelona.

  • Samsung Gear 360 is a virtual reality camera that can shoot footage in 360° to play back on a VR headset – sync with your Galaxy S7 for easy social sharing
  • LG 360VR is a set of virtual reality goggles from LG. They connect to the LG G5 smartphone
  • LG360 Cam is a fun, portable camera that you attach to the LG G5’s modular design to record footage in 360°


VR set to revolutionise music, film and sport

We interviewed Sol Rogers, CEO and Founder of REWIND a VR and creative digital agency, and asked him for his thoughts on virtual reality - particularly on how he sees it being used beyond gaming.

REWIND is developing VR content for the HTC Vive including two mini-games, a car configurator and an architectural experience. 

‘If you think virtual reality is all about gaming, think again,’ Sol said.

‘It’s already being used in music, film, sport and TV. Bjork, Muse and U2 have all experimented with VR… ‘

Sol also talked about how the BBC has used virtual reality to deliver programmes in 360°.

It’s easy to see why we’re saying Mobile World Congress 2016 is when virtual reality got real.

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