The Korean electronics conglomerate on Tuesday launched Milk VR, a service that will provide free 360-degree videos to anyone using a Gear VR virtual-reality headset, which launched as a limited “Innovator’s Edition” earlier this month. The content is expected to dribble out on a consistent basis in an effort to get people coming back to the service.
Samsung wants Milk VR to be a rebuttal to those skeptical about the amount of content available for the Gear VR. The videos will also serve as a model for future filmmakers or artists looking to take advantage of the virtual-reality medium, as well as build up an ecosystem and viewership for VR content. Milk VR also sits alongside the Milk Video and Milk Radio services, dragging Samsung deeper into the content game.
"Video is like the Wild West in VR," said Nick DiCarlo, head of Samsung’s VR business, in an interview earlier this month. "There are so many ways to shoot immersive video. Milk VR can play a wide range of content."
Samsung partnered with Facebook’s Oculus to create a mobile-powered virtual-reality headset, which was part of a large announcement that included a smartwatch and the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone. The Gear VR went on sale on December 8 in the US, intended more for developers and artists looking to test the device, rather than a mainstream consumer device. The $199 headset requires a Galaxy Note 4, which acts as its brains, display and audio output.
The company is looking at virtual reality as a potential growth engine at a time when one of its key traditional revenue sources — smartphones — has slowed down, taking with it a drop a profits. While Apple has maintained its leadership at the high end of the market with premium devices, Samsung’s own Galaxy S5 hasn’t performed as strongly as its predecessors. At the same time, the company is seeing competitive pressure from upstart rivals such as Xiaomi, which offer lower-cost phones with comparable — or superior — specifications.
Samsung looks to be betting big on virtual-reality content. DiCarlo said the company is paying for the videos that will run on Milk VR.
The service will offer the videos through downloads and "adaptive streaming options." It appears as an app that can be downloaded from the VR home screen.