A GEARVR NEWS APP REVIEW
An app called “theBlueVR” was a GearVR demonstration developed in a partnership between WeMoLab and Samsung. It was designed to take new VR users through an undersea sightseeing tour set to lovely music with an inspiring female voice dictating the events as they unfold. It was graceful and extraordinary when it first debuted with the Note 4, and I silently waited for the release of the third demo piece they promised in this app, which looked from the short trailer to be even better than anything they’d done yet.
The first piece was called “Giants” and told the story of large whales and other deep-sea creatures, taking you deep under icebergs and other treacherous ocean waters. It wasn’t calibrated perfectly and did result in a little motion sickness when you were moving through the icebergs, but it was still very impressive. The voice work was outstanding, lulling you with this female narrator’s comforting voice. They couldn’t have found anyone better to speak the lines, that’s for sure.
The second story had more of assortment of large fish, including a variety of interesting sea creatures from Sharks to Stingrays to Nergals and much more. The graphics were fairly good at the time; however, the models could have used a bit more lively animations. Everything moved in square computerized patterns, not organic or rounded. The fish turned on dimes, not arcs, and there were no bubbles when they did turn sharply. It had the peculiar attributes of being at once amazing and yet flat, too.
The third demo was just a short trailer for an upcoming installation that WeMoLab must have felt they were going to do. But as time progressed, this installment never came, and what a pity too. With each one they did, the graphics got better and they learned how to cater the imagery to display the 3D more. The third version was in a smaller space, less open, allowing more 3D Depth to permeate the scene. The fish were right in your face as you hovered over the sand bank in only 20 feet of perfect green water.
You then arced over a huge hole in the ocean floor leading down to some mysterious cavern down within, and just when you are ready to begin looking into that hole, a sword-fish swims through, distracting you before you can. The scene then rapidly fades out, leaving you wanting more. Leaving you breathless. You think “Wow, the next one is the best one, I can’t wait!” But 20 months later, the remaining tour still hasn’t been delivered. So what went wrong there? Why didn’t they at least complete the next tour?
I said “tours” above because these were not videos, they were live assets (levels) loaded in. They could have done these as videos due to the “Mutual of Omaha” style narration driving each experience, but then the quality of the visuals would have suffered. These visuals were so crisp and the 3D Depth so amazing at that time, yes, but eventually this app’s shock and awe was overtaken by Ocean Rift with its way more lively fish animations and models and I forgot about it for some time.
When I decided to review it this week, there was quite a nasty little surprise: Samsung and WeMoLab had parted ways! As a result, theBlueVR app had recently been removed from the Oculus Home Store and is now located in the “uninstalled” area of Oculus Home. When you scroll down to have a look at it and possibly install it, it cleverly says “This app no longer works on this version of your OS” with no further details. Deeply pained, I searched my Library, only to find it missing there, too! It had been totally removed from my device, despite me never having uninstalled it directly! What the … !?
I went to my Android phone and searched all the apps on it until I found “theBlueVR” still installed but had no way to access/load it. Then I remembered this amazing little app called “Gala” which can be downloaded from Google Play. It scans your phone and finds all the GearVR-related apps that are installed, whether they were installed via SideLoadVR or just plain sideloaded “VR JAM” style. If there is no other way to load that app due to Oculus removing it, but if it’s still installed, Gala will find it there and index it for your pleasure. So I literally jumped out of my seat when I saw that it was still there! I quickly gave it a load and voila! I was back in, baby, yeah! And it was running like a dream.
I didn’t see the reason for the Oculus Home saying this app was not supported by the OS when it clearly still worked flawlessly. But in researching why the app is no longer allowed on Oculus Home, I had happened upon a small conspiracy. It seems Samsung now no longer supports this app because WeMoLab disbanded their partnership to go over to the Vive (a more advanced VR HMD for the PC) under a new company name: “WeVR.”
The new WeVR then also created a small app for GearVR called Transport, which is a GearVR video application that no longer uses assets or levels but only shows off Vive “video captures” of their award-winning Vive Experiences in the deep sea. In other words, it’s just an advertisement that plays Vive videos. The original three GearVR experiences they created in theBlueVR app were no longer available. It seemed they have chosen to bury their previous efforts … almost as if embarrassed about them. That’s a pity, because they still look pretty decent on GearVR and are still fun to watch due to the woman’s voice. I really love her work.
Transports main purpose is to show off how much cooler the Vive is than GearVR, so you’ll buy one. I don’t blame them, though, however much it hurts not to have them working in GearVR directly anymore. I would’ve done something like this myself if my new software was designed only for the Vive or Oculus Rift. It’s a really clever idea to sell more Vive machines … and their software of course. But seeing this app showing off Vive Experiences in GearVR did happen to upset me a little on some irrational level.
After some deep thought, I realized why. They are merely videos now, and not even very stereoscopic ones, either. They are no longer live assets loaded in and projected to your HMD in true VR fashion. The movies are pretty decent quality, but feel closer to 2D than 3D. Movies in GearVR at this stage pretty much can’t ever live up to what a game, with actual assets, can project in the GearVR. So as far as GearVR is concerned, it’s a step down. Movies are just not as cool as live demos. You can just feel the greater quality of a demo way deeper in your soul than you can 360 movies, unfortunately.
The reason WeVR has done things this way is that the Vive is superior to GearVR due to its PC powerhouse AMD/nVidia GPU’s, drivers, and numerous interfaces. The graphics are so good, they couldn’t possibly be reproduced using live assets on the GearVR. If they could, why would you need a PC HMD at all? So they record the videos and we are able to see what the Vive’s version of these experiences are like using GearVR by watching the movies. There are several movies already out for Vive, and more coming all the time. They are treating this enterprise like a TV Channel that will release new episodes regularly.
The most famous episode of “theBlue” so far is “Whale Encounter” (shown above). In Transport for GearVR the video’s called “theBlue” just as you would assume. It’s a 250MB movie download. The visuals are good, but without stereoscopy they fail to fully impress. Nevertheless, when the whale (the star of this show) finally does arrive, its scale and the impressiveness of the behemoth will still blow your mind. You just might say “OMG” or “WOW” out loud. It definitely makes it worth seeing something so startling at least a few times … before you end up deleting it to make space on your phone.
These kinds of “download the movie” apps really should recognize when you have an SD card and ask if you want to redirect all such files to a folder on it. So you can keep the episodes curated there forever practically. The app itself is only 49 MB, so at least that part was smart thinking as there will be a ton more “movies” to download in the future, once all the various projects and studios involved in “Transport” finally get up to full speed in due time. Some of the other projects do look pretty amazing.
One episode I would really like to see is the “Luminescence Abyss” one, which looks pretty dark and scary, yet also especially neon and cool like something from the movie Avatar. The next two images give you a sense of the awesomeness…
The GearVR’s version of theBlueVR is not something to be forgotten or erased simply because the company is moving on to the Vive under a new name. Disbanding their partnership and removing the application from our devices (or at least removing access to it if not for Gala) was definitely NOT the way to go here, I feel. The application might have been showing it’s age a little, but many more people (especially new users) could still have benefited from and enjoyed the three demos provided for the GearVR. They were something amazing, each episode just like some fancy underwater Nature TV show.
It’s a pity WeVR couldn’t have committed to staying with GearVR producing these same kinds of experiences through more live VR content demonstrations. I saw they were already evolving higher by the time they reached their third demo, and I feel cheated for having waited patiently for the third one to actually get released and wasn’t. I feel the GearVR has been slightly lessened by their decision to leave us behind and adventure onward with the Vive. But I definitely understand their decisions for doing so. Better GPU, better graphics, more amazing experiences a phone can’t handle. At least not yet (wink).
And it’s not like they are leaving the GearVR entirely. They did add their popular Vive whale video to Transport, which is a new app on the GearVR. So we can still get a taste of WeVR’s unique artistry and remember them fondly in passing. Just like the whale does, when it passes us in that same video….
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