Using Android mobile VR overheats devices and drains battery, says Oculus

Saqib Shah
September 8, 2014

Samsung officially bought virtual reality to Android devices with the launch of its Gear VR headset at IFA last week.

According to the company behind Samsung’s hardware, Oculus, developing virtual reality (VR) technology for Android was no easy task.

The company’s Chief Technical Officer, John Carmack, claims that despite the introduction of VR on Android, the road ahead will be difficult for both developers and consumers.

Talking to Gamamsutra, Carmack added that VR can cripple an Android handset’s battery and overheat it within minutes.

The Samsung Gear VR headset will work with the Galaxy Note 4

The Samsung Gear VR headset will work with the Galaxy Note 4

Therefore, larger more powerful games being played via a headset (like the Samsung Gear VR) will have to be limited to short sessions, as the technology uses all the core’s of even a high-end device such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

According to Carmack, the solution – currently in development – is to notify the user via the Android device when the it is about to overheat. This will allow the gamer either to end the session or switch to low power settings, if the game can adapt to them.

However, in the long-term it sounds like the battery issue will be a debilitating factor for hardcore Android gamers hoping for the type of immersive experience that is currently available on the PC (via the Oculus Rift) and coming soon to PlayStation 4 (via the Sony Project Morpheus headset).

“The power issue is going to be a big battle, and it’s going to be interesting to see because we don’t know yet how many people will like smaller nuggets of entertainment experiences instead of longer-form things,” Carmack said.

“We’re hoping developers make a lot of short, bite-sized nuggets of entertainment because they work well on mobile’they don’t tax the thermal and power so much, and they also have another benefit: since we don’t have positional tracking on mobile, we know we’re going to cause problems for more sensitive people.”

Consequently, it seems that short-form VR gaming will be the norm for Android devices for the foreseeable future. Keep that in mind before you rush out to buy the Samsung Gear VR when it launches later this year.

About the Author

Saqib Shah

Tech/gaming journalist for What Mobile magazine and website. Interests include film, digital media and foreign affairs.

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