Samsung looks beyond the Galaxy S23 to create “augmented reality” devices.


SAN FRANCISCO — For the most part, Samsung Electronics is holding its packed product launch event in Northern California to show off a trio of new Galaxy S23 smartphones plus a handful of laptops. But that’s not all.

In addition to updating some of its core product lines, the company also unveiled It plans to develop new “augmented reality” products and experiences with the help of key partners including Google and Qualcomm.

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Augmented reality, or XR, is a loose term to describe a handful of related technologies, including virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. And since these technologies reflect different ways of physically viewing your software, services and the world around you, Samsung’s announcement confirms that the company is developing a new wearable display. Or developing a headset.

“Many different companies … have been making these announcements about different realities,” TM Roh, president and head of Samsung’s mobile experience business, told The Washington Post in an interview. “So we’re making the same preparations, no less.”

Roh would not reveal details of Samsung’s first XR product, which will not be revealed at Wednesday’s launch event. “We’re getting there, but we’re not far,” he said.

“For the chipset, it’s going to be a strategic collaboration with Qualcomm. The hardware will be us,” Roh said. And the software, he added, will be provided by Google.

“For the ecosystem, we were trying to determine what platform to work with,” Roh said. “And in the end, we decided it was going to be Google,” he added, referring to a new, previously unannounced version of the Android operating system meant specifically to power devices such as wearable displays. was for

Google and Qualcomm separately confirmed the partnership on XR.

“We’re excited to work with our partners to create next-generation computing experiences that will elevate what users can do with Google,” said Google spokeswoman Kaori Miyake. “

“Based on our existing collaborations with Samsung and Google, we have meaningful plans to collectively advance XR devices and experiences,” Qualcomm said in a statement. “We have the foundation to make these opportunities a reality and drive the future of the local Internet.”

Roh also said that Samsung’s plans for augmented reality would include service partnerships with Meta and Microsoft, though he declined to give details.

Creating reasons to use — and continue to use — these types of augmented reality devices is more important than word of mouth for a new gadget, which is why Samsung chose its launch event instead of making a solid product announcement. Demonstrated partnership.

“We understand that the ecosystem has to evolve to some degree to launch the product and for the product to be successful,” Roh said. “And as you know, there have been many attempts by other companies so far, but not as successful as hoped because perhaps the ecosystem was not as ready as it should have been.”

That Samsung is working on a head-worn computing gadget shouldn’t come as a surprise — it has a lot of history. In 2015, it offered people an affordable first taste of virtual reality with the Gear VR headset, which users plugged their smartphones into. (The company periodically updated the headset’s design until it stopped producing new designs a few years later.) Then, in 2017, it launched the Odyssey — a headset aimed at Windows XP. used with the C – and released a revised model the following year.

Since then, Samsung has backed away from making such products while companies including Facebook owner Meta have made immersive computing devices a cornerstone of their corporate strategies. Since then, however, layoffs have recently forced other companies, including Meta and Microsoft, to back off their augmented reality teams, in the process raising some doubts about their visions of the Metaverse.

Meanwhile, Apple is expected to reveal its first XR device early this spring. According to Bloomberg News, the product — a reportedly pricey mixed reality headset — is said to track hand and body movements, as well as offer immersive visuals that mimic the real world. I can fade. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While much of augmented reality has been focused on the Meta and Apple, the tie-up of three companies with collective expertise in screens, software, and chip design should allow this new effort to carve out a niche in a soon-to-be-crowded market. can help . And that could mean more options for consumers as the devices we use to stay productive and connected change in shape and scope.

But this first glimpse into Samsung’s next frontier comes at a critical time for the company. According to research firm Canalys, global smartphone shipments are set to fall 12 percent in 2022, and declining demand for consumer gadgets recently led to Samsung’s lowest quarterly profit in years.

Roh acknowledged that market demand for smartphones may remain weak for the first half of this year as consumers remain cautious about purchasing.

Even as Samsung prepares for what could be its next project, Roh said he doesn’t see the work as an existential threat to the rest of Samsung’s mobile business. Despite declining demand, he said, he believes more cautious consumers will continue to invest in “premium” products for the added benefits they provide.

In the case of this year’s new Galaxy S23 smartphones, that includes improved processor performance and continued focus on cameras. The $1,199.99 Galaxy S23 Ultra, for example, includes a new 200-megapixel sensor that the company says will produce better photos at night.

“[Smartphones] will continue to build on features and user needs and deliver more new experiences,” Roh said. And among those experiences, he said, are more immersive ones that change the way we see and interact with our phones. can change

When it comes to augmented reality and mixed reality, “there are definitely devices for that,” Roh said. “But maybe they can join with the smartphone and develop further from there.”

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