Image courtesy Samsung

Samsung Partners with Google & Qualcomm to Release Android-powered XR Device


Samsung’s 2023 Unpacked event was all about the company’s Galaxy S23 hardware, although at the end of its hour-long presentation the South Korean tech giant announced it was working with Qualcomm and Google to develop an XR device.

TM Roh, Samsung’s president and head of mobile experiences, didn’t reveal any more than what was said on stage, namely the existence of the partnership itself, however speaking to The Washington Post he announced the companies are “getting there,” and that the XR device was “not too far away.”

It’s not clear what sort of device it will be, since ‘XR’ essentially covers the entire gamut of immersive headsets, including augmented reality (e.g. HoloLens), virtual reality (e.g. Meta Quest 2), and mixed reality (e.g. Meta Quest Pro). Our best bet though is on a standalone MR headset, which uses passthrough cameras to layer computer-generated visuals on top of the user’s physical space, essentially replicating the experience you might have on a see-through AR display, albeit on a VR device.

MR headsets include Meta Quest Pro, HTC Vive XR Elite, and Apple’s rumored headset which is reportedly set to arrive sometime early this year at around $3,000.

Meta Quest Pro | Image courtesy Meta

As you’d imagine, Qualcomm is tasked with building the XR device’s chipset, while Samsung will manufacture the headset’s hardware. Software will be provided by Google; WaPo reports it will be running on “the unannounced version of the Android operating system meant specifically to power devices such as wearable displays.”

With the exception of Qualcomm, which not only produces XR-specific chipsets but also regularly shows of its own XR headset references, both Samsung and Google’s commitment to the project are kind of a long-awaited homecoming.

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Samsung was one of the first truly massive tech companies to develop VR hardware. Starting in 2014, the company partnered with Meta (then Oculus) on the Samsung Gear VR platform, which paired the Galaxy Note 4 phone with a headset shell sporting an optimized intertidal Measurment unit (IMU). Samsung Gear VR was essentially the first high-quality 3DOF mobile VR experience offered to consumers, marking a stark departure from the sort VR experiences you could find on Google’s more open, but decidedly lower-quality Cardboard platform.

Notably, Samsung hasn’t released a VR product since the launch of the PC VR headset Odyssey+. Like seemingly all big tech firms these days, it appears to be working on AR glasses.

Smasung Odyssey+ | Image courtesy Samsung

Google, although reportedly also working on AR device, similarly shelved its VR ambitions when it discontinued its standalone Daydream platform in 2019, something which at the time was essentially the nail in the company’s Android VR coffin. Google previously worked with Lenovo in 2018 to produce its first and only standalone Daydream VR headset, the Lenovo Mirage Solo, which offered 6DOF room-scale tracking while providing only a single 3DOF clicker-style controller.

Since then, Google has only really been vocal about its experimental system for immersive video chatting, Project Starline, which lets people engage in face-to-face video chats without needing an AR or VR headset.

Typically, we’d say Mobile World Congress 2023 would be the next logical place to share more info about the XR hardware partnership. Samsung, Qualcomm and Google will all be present, so we may just learn more there when the week-long event kicks off in Barcelona, Spain on February 27th.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • XRC

    “optimized intertidal Measurment unit (IMU).”

    (? IMU= Inertial measurement unit)

  • ViRGiN

    Nah, this is the year elitists not getting any headsets cause deckard is around the corner

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    Google isn’t only working on an AR device, they integrated ARCore into Android starting with 7.0/Nougat in 2018. They had started with Project Tango, using a Time of Flight depth sensor. They then switched to a single regular camera plus IMU tracking, which can detect depth and supports object occlusion, meaning virtual objects can be partially hidden behind real objects. So it is more capable than the tracking on the Quest 2/Pro using stereo cameras with passthrough, what Meta calls Mixed Reality, which only provides static 3D hooks for virtual objects within the room and so far doesn’t really recognize objects in real time, requiring a manual setup instead.

    ARCore also supports depths sensors or using multiple cameras, but doing image processing with hires phone cameras quickly drains the battery, which may be one of the reasons why Meta tracking cameras are rather low resolution and only b/w. According to Google 85% of all active Android devices support the ARCore depth API as of November 2022, and the developer documentation lists more than 650 compatible devices, and they have an active AR developer community.

    Based on Google’s AR activities, Samsung and Google effectively dropping VR a few years ago and Qualcomm just having released the AR2 Gen 1, their first SoC optimized for AR with extra performance for image processing at low power while the GPU is slower than the XR2 Gen 1, I’m pretty sure that whatever the three are cooking up is primarily an AR device, similar to what Apple is aiming for. Just like the Apple HMD it will technically be a VR HMD, as current see-through AR displays aren’t advanced enough, so companies have to implement AR as VR with passthrough.

    It may therefore support VR usage, but I doubt that it will be a “Mixed Reality” device, as MR is mostly a Meta marketing term for VR with passthrough, but without sufficiently powerful image processing capabilities for AR. Any MR device is basically a VR HMD with controllers and a convenient way to see the environment, but using the passthrough is the exception, not the rule. For an AR device the passthrough is the default, as you are using it to interact with our daily environment, (at least parts of) which the device has to be able to recognize in real time. This also implies using hand tracking, as controllers only make sense in VR and interfere with pretty much all normal human interactions with reality.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    When a headset is $3000+ you’re not leading the way, hell, not even at $2000+. Yeah it might become a great headset, but with such a high pricetag you can’t talk about it being mainstream, hell otherwise you already can say that the current $3000+ headsets are mainstream..
    Mainstream means at max $1000 or less, so even the new HTC headset and the Quest Pro aren’t mainstream.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    Maybe we’ll finally get that curved display headset with 140+ degrees horizontal FOV at an affordable price. But I don’t count on it. Hopefully Samsung will just put out a great headset with actual (AM)OLED displays or at least vibrant and yet still actual good blacks. But in reality I think it will be something alike the latest HTC headset, but slightly better and hopefully more affordable.

  • guest

    I just hope is not some AI internet dependent device that second-guesses your every move in a constant game of whack-a-mole. After the nightmare of shafting XR developers 3 times with Glass, Tango, Daydream, I hope they finally get their act together…

  • anonomn

    “Starting in 2014, the company partnered with Meta (then Oculus) on the Samsung Gear VR platform”
    Can we not do the revisionist history thing please? “Starting in 2014, Samsung partnered with then Facebook (Whom would later rebrand to Meta) owned Oculus on the Samsung Gear VR platform” would be correct for the state of affairs at that point in time.

  • ShaneMcGrath

    I’d be very interested in a new Odyssey 2.0, Make it happen Samsung.