At the Galaxy Unpacked event on February 1st, Samsung said they’re working on a Virtual Reality Headset. Remember the Google Glass? It had voice activation, a touchpad, a display, and a camera. It was discontinued, but the product was way ahead of its time.
FaceBook (now known as Meta) bought the VR company Oculus for 2 Billion Dollars. They have something called the Reality Labs Division for hosting the Metaverse. Meta is heavily investing in a future of Virtual Reality.
Over time, Meta invested nearly 36 Billion USD into the Metaverse. They’re heavily betting on Augmented or Virtual Reality. The Metaverse isn’t ready for mass adoption since many fear the whole concept. It poses threats to user privacy and many user privacy concerns.
If VR evolves too much, it’ll distort the fabric of Reality. That’s potentially very dangerous. There’s also the fact that Meta isn’t precisely known for user privacy and security. This distrust is a significant advantage to two companies, Apple and Samsung.
Samsung takes user security very seriously. Their hardware-based Knox encryption is complicated for cyber criminals to get through.
Apple’s advertisements heavily portray that they care a lot about user privacy. The Reality of these claims is debatable. Apple also has hardware levels of security, and both companies have the trust of the general crowd when it comes to their data.
There are many rumours of Apple working on a VR headset, but it hasn’t seen the light of day even now, in January 2023. Samsung’s event in February teased an Extended Reality wearable device.
How will Samsung approach Virtual Reality?
We can’t predict what’ll happen next in the tech industry. Some companies think we’ll soon see a world where VR and AI dominate.
We could also see brain chips go mainstream. Instead of VR Headsets, VR/AR glasses could take off.
In another case, we could see the AR/VR industry not take off to the general consumer segment and might remain exclusive to the enthusiast community. We could see a significant AI takeoff instead.
Samsung can approach this new and unpredictable market with Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are completely different but related too. Virtual Reality entirely relies on computer simulation.
To give it a rough number, VR is 75% emulation and 25% real. VR sets up an entirely new world. Since VR simulates a new world, it risks looking unrealistic.
Augmented Reality, on the other hand, does not set up a new environment but enhances your existing one. After tracking your surroundings with depth mapping technology, AR adds visual or sensory overlays onto the existing world.
Both methods have their set of advantages and disadvantages. If Samsung goes the VR route, it risks looking unrealistic, and it’s hard to find skilled developers.
The implementation is not there yet. We don’t have much content yet. VR offers an isolated, disconnected experience. While we may meet the hardware requirements, VR is still very expensive for mass adoption.
If Samsung chooses to try AR instead, there’s still limited hardware capability. Motion sensing, depth mapping, tracking, display resolution, etc., are still way behind what’s considered good.
Mixed Reality is a plausible choice for Samsung. The new headset could interfere with Reality and create a convincing virtual world, but it won’t defer too much from the physical world. Companies are aiming for a 50-50 split.
What do we currently know about the Samsung AR/VR Headset?
Instead of a large, expensive headset, the new product from Samsung is probably a pair of glasses. Samsung is actively working on a prototype with the model number SM-I110. This is likely the successor to the SM-I110.
Samsung is optimising this to improve interaction with digital objects in the physical world. Going by the patents, we’ll likely see a sleek and modern design that’s lightweight and comfortable to wear for long periods.
We expect real-time hand and motion tracking, voice recognition, and depth mapping. Leaked developer kits showcase compact and high-resolution displays with large fields of view.
Many patents confirm that Apple is working on AR/ VR too. We can’t tell if the SM-I120 is a developer kit or an upcoming consumer electronics device. There’s a good chance it might never make it out of the testing and research labs.
This new model might refer to a third-party developer kit since developers must create and optimise applications in advance. Samsung hasn’t given up on AR yet, and their teaser at the Unpacked event confirms this.
This new Extended Reality device is an ongoing project in collaboration with Google and Qualcomm. Three tech giants are putting their heads together on this project, so there’s plenty of potential.
It could run an Android version exclusive for VR/AR and wearable devices. Google already has some experience with their Google Glasses, so that they can rectify their previous errors now.
Qualcomm will make the chipset that goes into this Extended Reality headset. Chipsets are very important for AR.
Why is there a sudden push for VR?
The PC/ Laptop market halted in growth several years ago. New laptops have slight component upgrades and higher clock speeds with better chips. We see a general efficiency improvement and design changes year over year.
Still, we don’t notice anything significant until at least five generations. We see a similar trend with smartphones.
Foldable phones are better now, but slab phones are nearly at the peak of innovation. All phones now have a set of fixed specifications that manufacturers smartly choose from, and all upgrades are iterative.
We can see larger camera sensors, better zoom range, solid-state batteries, improvements to foldable phones, etc. However, these upgrades aren’t as remarkable as those we saw from 2018 to 2019 or 2019 to 2020.
The smartphone market’s stagnation led companies to push for tech that could trend in the future. Mixed Reality is the next realistic way for technology to go.
When Samsung finally announces its VR headset, it might conveniently plug into the ecosystem of Samsung products for the best possible integration.
Initially, the headset might complement your other ecosystem of tech products, but VR/AR eventually aims to replace them all.
We already saw examples of this from competing products. AR headsets can now create usable monitors in a virtual world. This eliminates the need to spend thousands on physical products.
AR/VR offers better entertainment and information in an immersive experience. Due to better productivity and accessibility, this is a fast-growing market.
Its popularity among gamers will skyrocket. This explains why many companies are heavily investing in Virtual Reality right now.
What happened to Gear VR?
Samsung made a Virtual Reality headset for consumers in 2015. They called it “Gear VR, ” which was pretty clunky to set up and operate.
You had to use a compatible Galaxy device as a display for it. It depends on that same device for power too. The Gear VR unit also acts as the controller and measurement unit. It includes a touchpad and a proximity sensor to detect when the headset is on.
Before the release of the mainstream product, Samsung made two innovator editions. For this headset to take off, it needed a lot of developer support. Content creators and technology enthusiasts got early access to this product.
The headset was only compatible with some Samsung flagship phones, from the S6 to the S9+. The S10 series doesn’t support this headset.
While it wasn’t very successful, Samsung made many meaningful decisions. There’s a trackpad for easy navigation, and adjusting focus is easy. 20ms Motion to Photon latency at the time was impressive.
Samsung’s partnerships with Oculus and a lot of internal testing since 2013 with a bunch of prototypes eventually converged into the Samsung Gear VR in 2015. Samsung designed it keeping their smartphones in mind.
In 2020, Samsung decided to shut down all their VR apps and services related to the VR Headset. Samsung’s standalone Mixed Reality headset that was exclusive to PCs got discontinued too.
Samsung’s experiment with Gear VR wasn’t a complete failure since it paved the way for a better AR/VR future for the company. Samsung doesn’t want to enter the market again without properly tuning its software.
If the next headset/ glasses that Samsung launches have better developer support and pricing, they’ll probably plateau AR into the mainstream.
The primary one could be hitting the roof with thermals. Even on smartphones, which are relatively less complex to develop, we’re seeing many heating problems.
Samsung could have an excellent lead in this department. They already have a chip fab. Samsung didn’t launch any phones with Exynos chips in 2023 so far, but there’s a chance that Exynos is taking a year off for better optimisation.
Heat management is worse on Exynos chips, and they don’t perform as well during gaming sessions. Efficiency suffers, and the chips don’t have a reasonable yield rate either.
Samsung made heavy investments in their chip fabs. They could discontinue the Exynos lineup of chips and name the upcoming chip from the Samsung fab something else entirely.
AR needs real-time computation, depth mapping, motion sensing, and object tracking in high resolutions at realistic frame rates. These heavy tasks require a lot of CPU and GPU horsepower since they simultaneously run many logical and graphical algorithms.
If we increase clock speeds just a bit, we’re already losing stability and thermal sustainability with chips. Chipsets and semiconductors are one major potential roadblock to the whole AR/ VR business.
Another hurdle is price. Current VR headsets sell for 2000$ or more, which is out of reach for the average consumer. They’ll find no reason to buy something so heavy in their wallet.
If consumers stick to smartphones and don’t move to VR, it won’t generate any meaningful profits and will fail.
There are many health concerns about staring at a digital screen all day, especially one that continuously emits blue light. Consumers might not trust big tech companies with their data, and there are real risks of privacy invasion here.
If people spend too much time engrossed in the virtual world, they might face problems in the real world. People tend to lose sight of their surroundings if they wear a heavily immersive headset, which has potentially disastrous implications.
Samsung AR/VR Headset Release Date
- Samsung AR/VR Headset will likely be released in January 2024.
Everything in this article relies on deductive reasoning and pure speculation. It’s difficult to predict when this device will launch since Samsung is vague about this. We haven’t seen enough credible leaks that tell us a launch date.
We don’t even know if this will be an AR-focused headset or a pair of glasses. Since many analysts expect Apple to come out with their headset at WWDC 2023 or the end of the year, Samsung could announce its competing product in early 2024.
Samsung’s displays are already excellent, and they have their own manufacturing/ outsourcing system for displays. Samsung has its fab, too, so things look good if they want to begin an AR project.
Since Samsung is partnering up with Qualcomm, we might see more chips from Qualcomm that are based on Samsung’s nodes. Their 3nm node is coming up soon, and it’ll mostly come to consumer electronics in 2024.
This collaboration could be similar to their one with Google for WearOS, where Google provides all the necessary software perks. Qualcomm, on the other hand, will help with the chipsets.
We can’t guess the price, but VR tech is costly. We can expect something over the 2000$ mark. If these sell well and go mainstream, the pricing could drop to make the headsets accessible to more people.
Note: We’ll update this live article with the latest news about the Galaxy AR/ VR headset.