Hands Free Headgear’s Gear VR head strap system replaces the standard Velcro straps with a mechanical adjustment system to help increase comfort for extended use.
Samsung’s Gear VR HMD offers the best you can get for a mobile VR experience to date, but it’s not without its faults. One of the biggest complaints about VR HMDs--Gear VR included-- is the strap system used to hold the headset to your face.
Most VR headsets include a three-point harness to keep the unit on your head, but not all three point harnesses are created equal. Oculus got it right with the Rift headset, with a semi-rigid construction and spring-loaded straps that allow you to remove the headset without undoing the Velcro.
Oculus helped design the Gear VR HMD, but it kept its design philosophies to itself. The Gear VR’s head strap is just about as generic as they come, and as a result, it’s not tremendously comfortable over extended periods of time. The Gear VR’s head strap doesn’t do a great job keeping the HMD balanced, which forces you to pull the straps tight against your face, leaving red marks on your visage.
Neal Nelson, the founder of Hands Free Headgear, believes he has a better solution. Nelson created an aftermarket head strap upgrade for Samsung’s Gear VR headset that does away with the elastic and Velcro straps in favor of a semi-rigid structure with a mechanical adjustment system, which resembles that of a welder’s mask. The Hands Free Headgear is designed to increase comfort so you can wear the HMD for longer periods of time.
"Virtual reality is evolving to include more and more entertainment programming like movies and sporting events,” said Nelson. “This evolution will accelerate the need for technology that provides a comfortable extended viewing experience."
Nelson’s solution also includes a magnetic headset mount, which allows you to quickly adjust the angle and distance of the HMD from your face. The magnetic mount also makes it easy to remove the HMD to take a sip of your drink or talk to someone else in the room, without having to readjust the strap when you put it back on. Most importantly, the magnetic mounts allow you to place the headset at your optimal viewing angle.
The Hands Free Headgear rig includes an adjustable overhead strap and a rear band with a mechanical adjustment dial, like the one you’ll find on the back of a PSVR headset. The rear strap hangs below the back of your skull and includes a counterweight to help balance the weight of the HMD and smartphone. The head mount system also features a washable cotton upper cover, which helps wick sweat and increases comfort.
The Hands Free Headgear head strap is an interesting product, though it’s a little rough around the edges. Nelson makes the rigid headset mounts by hand, and as such, the fit and finish aren't as nice as a mass produced product. The sheet metal is hand-cut, so it’s not perfectly uniform. And the counterweight on the back is attached with tape. But, despite the rough edges (literally), the Hands Free Headgear system performs as advertised. Nelson’s system is infinitely more adjustable than the stock straps, and the counterweight helps balance the headset on your face. It’s not exactly pretty, but to be fair, no one’s going to win a fashion contest with a VR HMD on their face.
The Hands Free Headgear system is available for both retail versions of the Gear VR: The white version that launched in 2015 and the dark blue version that launched with the now-discontinued Galaxy Note 7. Nelson sells both versions of the Gear VR Hands Free Headgear system for $30, and they come with a satisfaction guarantee. Nelson said that if you don’t like the product for any reason, you can return it for a refund or replacement. The kits are currently listed on Ebay (opens in new tab), but Nelson has plans to sell the mounting system through his website, hfheadgear.com, in the near future.
The only way Gear VR can be used for extended periods of time is to tether it by a power cable, which defeats the advantage of mobile VR.