Without explicitly announcing a new specific product, Samsung quietly implied that they may be developing a new standalone mobile VR HMD during a session during their developer conference last month. While there were no major VR announcements during the main keynote at SDC, in a session titled What’s on The Horizon: A Look at the Future of VR at Samsung, Tae Yong Kim, Samsung Electronics’ VP, Head of Graphics R&D, showed a graphic with a question mark in between a Gear VR mobile VR headset and a Samsung Odyssey Windows Mixed Reality HMD. Kim said that the Gear VR is “fully mobile, quickly attaches via a cell phone, and affordable” while the Odyssey offers a “premium experience coming from the positional tracking of the headset and the controllers, and the computing power of the PC.” He said, “The question is ‘How do we combine the benefits of those two technologies together for our next VR system?'”

Kim then showed a slide saying the next steps for Samsung’s mobile VR include inside-out tracking and 6 degree-of-freedom controllers, and he said, “We are partnering with global partners like Intel to bring inside-out technology to our next mobile product portfolio.” Neither Intel nor Samsung had any further comment about this quiet announcement of a “next VR system” and “next mobile product” in Samsung’s portfolio, which seems more significant than merely adding positional tracking and 6-DoF controllers to existing Gear VR devices.

Hands-on: Samsung Odyssey Windows VR Headset & Controllers

It looks like we’ll have to wait until CES this year to learn if this is more than a positional tracking and 6-DoF tracking update to Gear VR, and whether Samsung is developing their own standalone headsets independent of Facebook’s Oculus Go. It’s unclear what software would be running on Samsung’s new headsets as it appears as though Samsung has a non-exclusive agreement with Oculus since the Samsung S8, S8+, and Note 8 are both Daydream and Gear VR-enabled, but it doesn’t appear that Facebook has a non-exclusive agreement with Samsung. Or if Facebook is able to expand to any OEMs beyond Samsung, then appears as though they have not done so yet. It could be that Facebook is planning a walled-garden hardware ecosystem similar to Apple, and will be focusing their energy on the control that comes with building their standalone headsets.

It’s unclear how healthy and sustainable the current partnership between Facebook and Samsung is. It appears as though Facebook mostly handles the software while Samsung handles the hardware, and while there’s obviously overlap between the two, it’s possible that these next HMDs will indicate whether Facebook takes more control over the hardware and Samsung takes more control over the software.

tom-hardingI had a chance to talk with Samsung’s Tom Harding, who is the Director of Immersive Products in charge of product strategy and bringing VR to the market. We talked about the Gear VR, marketing VR, Samsung Internet VR, Gear 360 and Round cameras, the 3-DoF Gear VR controller, as well as the the collaborations Google with Daydream and ARCore and with Facebook/Oculus on Gear VR.


I challenged Samsung for not investing many resources within the VR content ecosystem or attending very many community VR events over the past couple of years. Harding says that Samsung’s focus has been on scale and making VR solutions available to all, and that they’ve been primarily focusing on driving adoption. But I wonder how much you can drive adoption of VR technologies without also investing in the content that will ultimately drive grassroots word of mouth and adoption.

A number of independent video creators expressed frustration that Samsung has not been doing more to support the needs of content creators, including how Samsung has not created any marketplace for immersive content creators to sell their work. One creator told me that Samsung did not not offer them any licensing fees to feature their work in the Samsung VR app, and a survey of content creators whose work was featured at Sumsung’s Evening of 360 show revealed that there was not any payment offered for featuring their work.

A lot of the content curation and marketplace development has been offloaded to Oculus since they serve as the primary point of contact with the VR development community, and so Samsung has been really disconnected from the needs of content creators. Samsung is in a financial position to invest a lot more within the future of the VR medium, but it appears as though that they have not been taking a holistic approach to supporting the VR content ecosystem or more directly engage the grassroots of the VR community. I hope to see Samsung a lot more in the year to come, and that they take the initiative to engage, listen, and help serve some of the larger needs of the VR community.

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  • Samsung is a manufacturer of LCD/OLED micro panels too so they know the VR demand more so than most and a change in strategy is inevitable, this could be the point they have decided to start rolling with it, that speaks for itself. Even Apple want to start making their own OLED panels as they too can see where all this is heading.

    Lets face it, who cares about a 75″ OLED/QLED when you can have your very own 3D cinema with 900″ screen strapped to your head for a fraction of the cost. In fact you could probably now buy a family of VR PC’s and Headsets and still have change compared to a single high end TV.

    TV sets will be replaced with VR headsets, Mobiles will be replaced with AR wearables, Monitors will only exist for legacy convenience and PC’s will change into multi-gpu aesthetically pleasing wireless hubs.

    • superdonkey

      as much as i like the idea of headsets replacing tv/mobile they are going to need to be far smaller and more comfortable to gain mass adoption.

      the size of a normal pair of glasses, even then its going to be a hard sell to joe public who has zero interest in vr.

      • NooYawker

        AR glasses when shrunk to the size of normal glasses will replace the smartphone. It won’t be a hard sell, it’ll be as common as the smartphone is today.

      • Aye, mass adoption is a slow process. This is a tech era, the younger generation are all high tech compared to the older so I think mass adoption of VR will be quicker than many think. Embracing tech is second nature to our younger generation and this is cheap tech not your average audiophile or videophile niche markets, at least that is what Oculus/HTC/W-MR are trying to target based on recent developments.

        A caveat (or plus point depending how you are) that VR-TV is less social in its current state. It is not “family” orientated enough yet. That moves into social dark spaces with fears of people not interacting as a family gathering anymore. Again, the younger ones are already glued to their mobiles anyway so I think they will adopt it regardless as escapism seems common place these days.

        As for Mobiles -> AR, yes, that needs miniaturization if we are comparing to say Hololens. Maybe mobiles will be screenless smart blocks in your pocket which wifi the signal to your smart glasses, who knows what they will come up with but I agree, it needs to be socially acceptable, light and do more than a mobile can. AR is behind known developments compared to VR and we still have Magic Leap and Apple to announce what they have been working on, it is clearly a tougher technology to commercialise.

    • Lucidfeuer

      You’re all making the mistake the differentiate AR as a device and VR as a device…

      • Until somebody can make an AR glass device that can go 100% opaque then they will be slightly different. I would love a single headset that can do both, and I don’t mean video passthrough like Apples ARKit. I find it helps to distinguish the different uses by using AR for Augmented and VR for complete CGI. Microsoft’s launch of the MR devices are not mixed at all, they are VR devices named MR devices just to muddy it further.

        • Lucidfeuer

          “Just to muddy it further” that’s exactly the kind of terrible thing that is hindering VR development, including the dichotomy between AR and VR.

          Because personally, and as you mentioned, until we have not only 100% opaque, but also at least current VR specs AR glasses…we’re talking about nothing but a technology that is probably 10 years aways.

          That’s why Virtual AR (pass-through) is and should have been the way to go for headset since the beginning. Since 2013, we are using incomplete and unfinished products that are nowhere near (well not that far either) a true -Virtual- Headset as in VR+AR+Hand,body and voice tracking. That’s the only format this device is supposed to be. Then when technology has evolve enough will it become -Virtual- Glasses instead of Headset. That’s how things are supposed to go in how they make sense, and yet there’s a not a single true virtual headset on the market yet…

          • Yeah, I thought they were all going to allow pass-through when VR devices started to appear. No need to take the headset off to pick up a drink etc. So I am right with you there. I also just wanted everything to be called VR, no AR, MR and any other acronym that businesses try to push just to be different. It is a hot topic for sure and one that hinders adoption as new users have a learning curve right from the start.

            However, VR+AR+hand+voice…etc will always be one step away from where I want it to be, a fully immersive experience. I think neural implants are the only path to that. A bit like dreaming where things can be climbed over, touched, felt and feel as real as reality without you lifting a finger. Maybe that is what Magic Leap is :) Hell, maybe that is what we are in right now!

          • Lucidfeuer

            Neural implant is more of a 40 years away (at least) technology. If you’re young enough you’ll get to experience it, but I wouldn’t fantasize about it, we barely know how to track neurological activity without having any trace of understanding of the way “information” is encrypted. In fact it’ll probably take quantum computing (as it is most likely close to how the brain functions) to even start drawing similarities. But that doesn’t mean a full FOV, Foveated/eye-tracked rendering, with all sorts of physical, haptic, temperature, wind etc…feedbacks is that far away.

  • This guy is such a politician..No straight answer.

  • Lucidfeuer

    It’s be cool if R2VR did AMAs in the comments.