How to Use NVIDIA SHIELD to Run Steam VR Games on Your Samsung Gear VR Headset
The Samsung Gear VR has proven itself to be an awesome mobile phone-based VR headset when paired with compatible Galaxy-class phones. The performance goes way beyond that which was delivered by the Google Cardboard and its third-party alternatives. The drawback was the limited number of available VR apps which where Gear VR specific. Due to this, users and gamers found means and ways to access the huge amount of VR games available for both the Cardboard VR platform and those that were inherent to the PC available at Steam VR.
How to access and run Cardboard VR games on a Gear VR is a discussion for another article. Of course, the amount of VR and other games for the PC is still by far the largest and when it comes to the center of distribution of these apps PC wise, Steam holds supreme. So, if one has a Gear VR/ compatible Samsung Galaxy phone and wants to run the games on Steam, there is a way to do it. Be forewarned however as the process will be a little bit tricky compared to running Cardboard games.
Unlike Cardboard VR games that can be loaded directly into the Samsung Galaxy phone, running a game on Steam will have to take a third party approach as it cannot be done directly. This, however, can be achieved using certain features of the NVIDIA SHIELD. In actuality, for those who are familiar with the product, SHIELD is a portable Android-based console gaming and streaming unit released by NVIDIA way back around 2013-2014. It was followed by a Tablet which had the same and additional features. At first, it was used for Android games but as the case of the Gear VR, it's capabilities exceeded that which the usual Android games could deliver. The SHIELD had a controller and features that most Android games of the time did not or could not take advantage of.
Another advantage of SHIELD was that it could Stream videos. One could connect the tablet to a Television via HDMI and watch online services like NetFlix with very good quality. When NVIDIA came up with the NVIDIA GameStream and GeForce now services, one could now play games for the PC on the latest version of the SHIELD Tablet. Then NVIDIA released SHIELD TV which was sort of an Android multi-media all-in-one console attached to a TV where one could watch streamed content and play games. These devices, from the portable game console to the TV box use Apps and features that (of course) work with the Android OS which brings us back to the Samsung Galaxy Phones and therefore the Gear VR which is Android-based.
What will essentially happen when one plays a PC game from Steam (whether VR or not) is that the game will actually run on the PC but will be streamed via the NVIDIA SHIELD service to the Android device which is the Galaxy Phone/ Gear VR combination. This, however, is not easy to achieve as the process is quite tedious and technically challenging. If however, one is determined to really get at those Steam games using one's Gear VR, here are more or less the steps to get it done.
The first thing to do is to set-up an NVIDIA SHIELD for your Gear VR. Aside from your Gear VR/Galaxy Phone, you will need a good PC with an NVIDIA GameStream/ GeForce Now compatible GPU card. You will need to download an App on your phone called SideloadVR and then Wi-Fi connects your Galaxy Phone to your PC. You will then use NVIDIA SHIELD GameStream to stream your game to your Oculus-Samsung headset.
Using your Galaxy, go to the Play Store and look for Sideload VR (should be free). Download and install. Run the app and select Signature Setup. Copy or write down the ID of your device, click/tap on the link to Log-into Oculus, enter your device ID then click on the button download file. Another link will appear (this time for upload), click the link and upload the file you just downloaded. Then click on the Verify Signature button.
Once verified, you can open Browse Market and look for the Stream Theater app. Download that and install it.
Note that some Galaxy Phones have their app protection activated. If you have problems with this try going to setting-security-unknown sources then disable the security.
Now, before proceeding any further, you will have to face the daunting task of connecting your Galaxy to your PC via Wi-Fi. First, get your PC's IP address. In Windows open your command window (Start-run then type cmd or start, type cmd depending on your ver of Windows). Then type ipconfig on that black window hit enter. You will see your subnet mask, default gateway, and IP address. Get/copy your IP. Activate the Stream Theater app and socket your Galaxy into your Gear VR. Sometimes, the Galaxy will be able to automatically connect to your PC but should it not, you will need your IP address. Add the PC manually and enter the IP, Stream Theater will then give you a four-digit PIN Code.
Go back to your PC and Start the GeForce Experience app on it. Enter that four-digit PIN into the SHIELD part of GeForce Experience and you will be able to see the games that you can play via NVIDIA SHIELD. In the instance that you may need to add games manually to SHIELD, select + then choose the games to add. You can now select the game you want to play and stream to your Gear VR and you can select whether to display/play it via Home Theater, Sub, Void or in VR. The game will then appear in your Gear VR's virtual theater screen.
Once again a word of warning. The steps may look easy but be always prepared for the unexpected especially when dealing with things that are quite technical. You may even have to repeat the process several times just to get it right and other unforeseen events may crop up like dealing with Firewalls and port forwarding depending on the Wi-Fi router you are using. If however, you are confident enough that you know your tech, go right ahead and have a blast. The steps are by no means exact so it will be up to you to apply your brand of Wizardry to the process. Nevertheless, ones you get it up and running, Congratulations! You can try to see which games will work with your Gear and which ones won't.
Happy VR Gaming!