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Samsung’s next VR headset won’t need a smartphone: Report

SEOUL: The company is creating a design for a standalone VR headset that doesn’t rely on a smartphone, like more-costly units from Oculus and HTC.

Samsung is developing an advanced, stand-alone VR headset that won’t require a user to link it to a compatible smartphone, which is necessary with the company’s basic $100 Gear VR consumer headset.

The upcoming stand-alone virtual reality headset will incorporate advanced features, including positional tracking that is not found in the Gear VR, according to an April 27 article in Variety. The plans for the premium VR headset were unveiled by Injong Rhee, Samsung’s head of R&D for software and services, at last week’s Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco.

“We are working on wireless and dedicated VR devices, not necessarily working with our mobile phone,” said Rhee, according to the article. Samsung is also working on features such as hand and gesture tracking for future generations of VR devices, but it may take a few more years for those features to arrive, the story reported. “VR is amazing, but the industry is still at its infancy,” said Rhee.

Samsung’s $100 Gear VR virtual reality headset was released in the fall of 2015 as a consumer version of virtual reality headsets made by Oculus. The Gear VR works with Samsung’s latest smartphone models—the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge Galaxy S6 Edge+, S6 and S6 Edge.

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets do not require a smartphone to operate, but they are more expensive. The Oculus Rift is priced at $599 and began shipping on March 28. Earlier in March, Oculus also announced that some 30 new VR gaming titles would be available to play on the new devices as the first Rift VR headsets began shipping. The first 30 titles will be joined by more than 100 additional titles through the end of 2016, according to an earlier eWEEK story.

The Rift is equipped with dual active-matrix organic LED (AMOLED) displays that are designed to provide users with incredible visual clarity as they explore virtual worlds with the device. The Rift also uses an infrared LED constellation tracking system that provides precise, low-latency 360-degree orientation and position tracking for users for accurate and fluid control and operation when playing games and simulations. Facebook acquired Oculus for $1.9 billion in March 2014 to expand its social media footprint.

Also in March, Sony announced that it will be bringing virtual-reality game play to its PlayStation entertainment systems with a new $399 PlayStation VR headset that will go on sale starting in October. The October release is later than the company previously expected. The VR headset was called Project Morpheus when it was first unveiled as a prototype two years ago at the 2014 Game Developers Conference.

In February, it was revealed that Google is in the midst of designing a stand-alone virtual reality headset device that would not require it to be used with a smartphone, unlike its existing Google Cardboard viewer. Google’s stand-alone VR viewer project came on the heels of reports about Google’s planned revision for its existing Google Cardboard viewer, which is made of folded cardboard. Google Cardboard wraps around a compatible smartphone, which provides the technology features that give the VR viewer its functions. The updated Google Cardboard viewer will still be used with a smartphone.

The upcoming device will include additional support for the Android operating system and is expected to be released this year to replace Google Cardboard, according to an earlier eWEEK story.

Google Cardboard, which first appeared in 2014, is a simple VR viewer made up of cut-and-folded cardboard that is shaped into a boxy-looking VR device. The gadget has a slot that accepts a compatible Android smartphone so that it can take advantage of the phone’s display and other features. Several other parts are used besides the cardboard, including some Velcro, a rubber band, two small magnets and some aftermarket lenses, which can be purchased online.

The first Cardboard device was dreamed up and built by Googlers David Coz and Damien Henry in 2014 at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris as part of a 20 percent project, which allows Google employees to use up to 20 percent of their work time to engage in projects that are interesting to them.

In an April study, Strategy Analytics estimated that the global virtual reality headset market will bring in about $895 million in revenue in 2016, but while 77 percent of that revenue will come for premium-priced products from Oculus, HTC and Sony, the actual per-device sales totals will be dominated by lower-priced headsets from various vendors.

The study predicted that three of the latest devices—the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and the coming Sony PlayStation VR—will bring in the bulk of the segment’s revenue this year. At the same time, though, those higher-priced devices will only make up about 13 percent of 12.8 million VR headsets that Strategy Analytics predicts will be sold in 2016, according to the report.

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