Samsung might unveil its AR technology at MWC 2017

Samsung has been quite proactive when it comes to the AR and VR space – the company was the first to build and commercialize a mobile VR headset in partnership with Oculus; Samsung’s Gear VR works well, but now it seems the company wants to be the first to bring AR to the mass market as well.

At the Virtual Reality Summit in San Diego this week, Samsung Electronics’ VP Sung-Hoon Hong spoke about the “Future of Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality.”

His keynote’s topic involves vast subjects, but what he slipped out was more interesting. First, Samsung is going to release a new version of Gear VR sometime soon; second, Samsung is working on an AR head-mounted display. Of course, it’s the latter that piqued our interest.

Samsung’s AR ambitions

Samsung wouldn’t be the first one to have ambitions in the AR space – Google Glass gave it a try already, rather unsuccessfully; for Samsung to have same ambitions as Google is not something surprising – it wouldn’t be the first time Samsung and Google’s interests have clashed.

Then, there’s Microsoft with its HoloLens; a mixed-reality head-mounted display intended primarily for developers and enterprise. The thing costs $3,000 per piece; it’s certainly not for the mass market – Google Glass, in comparison, was $1,500.

Of course, the HoloLens is also much bigger – you wouldn’t see people roaming around the local market wearing HoloLens; Google Glass, on the other hand, was meant to be inconspicuous and wearable in all environments – though, it failed at that too.

In his keynote, Hoon noted that there were four levels of immersion with AR; Samsung, according to him, is aiming for level three. Hoon describes the third level as something that allows users to interact with the virtual experiences in the real world.

In his example, he says it would be liking finding Pikachu in a tree while playing Pokémon Go – but you would have to get to the tree and moves its leaves to grab Pikachu.

MWC 2017

Hoon says he expects Samsung to unveil its AR technology at the 2017 Mobile World Congress. There’s a problem, though: that’s exactly what he said; while Samsung does have the technology somewhat ready for a demo, an actual product is far from reality.

The research work needed to develop technology for something like this is extensive – but it’s only the halfway to building a product for the mass market.

Figuring out the manufacturing process and making the technology and device profitable as well as affordable is where the next challenge lies.

Unfortunately for us, that’s all Hoon gave us at the keynote. An untethered AR headset still seems to be at least half a decade away, if not more.

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