Samsung is the latest tech giant to lean into virtual and augmented reality. The smartphone maker says it will partner with Google and Qualcomm on an upcoming mixed reality platform. The news was shared between Samsung’s Unpacked event on Wednesday and follows reports indicating that Apple could release its first virtual reality headset this year. Qualcomm’s CEO, Cristiano Amon, and Google’s senior vice president of Android, Hiroshi Lockheimer, appeared on stage to co-announce the collaboration.
Samsung did not mention whether any specific products are in development. He also did not provide a timeline for any upcoming mixed reality products or services.
“It’s more of a declarative announcement about how we’re going to try to build the XR ecosystem,” TM Roh, president of Samsung’s mobile division, told CNET in an interview through a translator ahead of the event.
“Google has been investing in experiences and technology in AR and VR for a long time,” Lockheimer said on stage. “Delivering this next-generation experience requires cutting-edge, advanced hardware and software. That’s why our collaboration with Samsung and Qualcomm is so exciting.”
Mixed reality is a general term used to describe technology that combines features of augmented and virtual reality. Augmented reality combines software with the real world by overlaying graphics over the user’s surroundings, similar to Google Glass. Virtual reality, by comparison, immerses the user in a 360-degree virtual world as it is Meta Quest 2.
However, a new wave of VR headsets is accelerating mixed reality with the help of pass-through cameras, a technique that allows VR and AR technologies to merge into one product line. Meta’s Quest 2 in Quest Pro headsets can do it, and so can the upcoming ones Vive XR Elite. Apples expected headphones must involve the same concept.
The announcement comes in time increased interest in virtual, augmented and mixed reality. Apple is expected to release a mixed reality headset in 2023 that could cost $3,000, according to Bloomberg. Sony’s PlayStation VR 2 and HTC’s Vive XR Elite are slated to launch this month, and Google teased a new pair of AR glasses designed for language translation at Google I/O last year. Mint Task 3 coming to the end of the year.
Samsung has been relatively quiet about virtual reality, except for its Gear VR headset that it launched more repetitions between 2015 and 2017. This device is a head case for smartphone-powered VR experiences. Roh says there has been more consumer demand for augmented and virtual reality, so the company chose this time to start discussing its plans. He says the company has been exploring this category for some time.
“And now we believe we’ve reached a certain threshold,” he said.
The collaboration makes sense, as Samsung, Google and Qualcomm already collaborate on smartphone development. Samsung makes the hardware of its Galaxy phones while Qualcomm supplies the processor and Google operates the underlying Android software operating system.
Roh said that Google and Qualcomm will play similar roles in the development of this upcoming XR platform, although they will likely overlap in some areas. For example, although Qualcomm would supply the processor, Samsung could make some optimizations, just like it did for the chip in the Galaxy S23 line.
“Each player takes the lead in each category, and then we’re going to work very closely in the different categories,” Roh said.
CNET reached out to Qualcomm for comment on the partnership and received the following prepared statement: “Building on our existing collaborations with Samsung and Google, we have meaningful plans to jointly drive the XR experience forward. With our Snapdragon XR innovations – together with Samsung’s exceptional products and Google technology – we have the basis to make these opportunities a reality and drive the future of the spatial internet.”
Qualcomm has been the chip supplier for nearly every major VR and AR headset for years, and has its own initiative to fuel a wave of compatible phones. VR and AR headsets in the next few years. Qualcomm is also involved with Microsoft on its future AR glasses hardware and with Meta on its own devices of the future. It is unclear whether this new collaboration will be compatible with existing Qualcomm Snapdragon Spaces headset and phone platform.
Asked for comment, Google’s Kaori Miyake added, “We’re excited to work with our partners to build the next generation of immersive computing experiences that will further enhance what users can do with Google.”
Wear OS-like collaboration?
Two years ago, Samsung and Google announced cooperation on the wave of the next generation of Wear OS watches, which resulted Galaxy Watch 4 and was before Google’s Pixel Watch. While this Qualcomm/Google/Samsung partnership is completely different, the spirit of the collaboration may be very much the same.
For Wear OS, Samsung was a hardware partner that helped improve the core features of Google’s next-generation watch platform, while Google highlighted the software transition to Android and added Fitbit features. Making a successful next-gen mixed reality hardware platform will likely require compatibility with existing apps and even phones to ensure the end device doesn’t feel left on an app island, as is often the case with Meta hardware.
As Apple’s headset looks set to bring VR and AR compatibility to existing Mac and iOS products, Samsung’s Google/Qualcomm collaboration could do the same for Google and Samsung mobile hardware.
If this is the kind of collaboration this mixed reality partnership suggests, then Google’s moves in this space remain the next big question mark.
In addition to its ambitions, Samsung also announced mixed reality the new Galaxy Book and The Galaxy S23 series of smartphones. A new series that includes standard, Plus and Ultra versionoffers a collection of upgrades and is now available for pre-order.