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Samsung and Google New Mixed Reality Partnership.

Here’s what we think this new tech will bring.

During the Galaxy S23 launch event last week, Samsung announced a number of noteworthy disclosures. However, fans were unprepared for an unexpected collaboration with Qualcomm and Google on a forthcoming mixed-reality platform. The term “XR” refers to the fusion of mixed reality, virtual reality, and augmented reality.

How will this Samsung product (or products) end up changing the game, and when could it arrive? In a year that will see new PlayStation VR headsets, new HTC Vivi VR headsets, new Meta VR headsets, and perhaps the first-ever Apple VR headset.

Hiroshi Horkheimer, head of Android at Google, and Cristiano Amon, CEO of Qualcomm, made vague promises about new hardware and software that will offer fresh experiences during Samsung’s on-stage presentation. However, the histories of Samsung, Google, and Qualcomm in the field of VR (and AR) can provide some clues. So too can the previous significant Google and Samsung alliance on wearables from two years ago.

A reassessment of its smartwatch portfolio was started by Google’s cooperation with Samsung in 2021, which also resulted in the release of a Pixel Watch last fall. This new Samsung-Google-Qualcomm alliance may have a similar impact on augmented reality and virtual reality. However, in this case, Google and Samsung will both be making long overdue comebacks to the VR/AR worlds they both left for a number of years.

Here’s why Samsung and Google entering the field makes sense, and is even sorely needed.

VR and AR needs to work with phones again

Half a decade ago, smartphones and VR goggles were compatible. When the Samsung Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View were available, you would place a phone inside a set of inexpensive VR goggles to use it as a screen. It considerably increased access at the time and was a delightful novelty, but it also had its limitations. Oddly, VR headsets barely function with phones in 2023.

We spend the majority of our time on our phones, thus it is annoying. While VR typically works alone. Through its partnering app, the Meta Quest 2 has progressively built up hooks into phones, but it lacks a significant amount of cross-device intelligence.

Already, Qualcomm has been working independently to find a solution. The company has been working on tools to connect apps and experiences, as well as having glasses that are directly connected to phones, using an early wave of AR glasses and specific Android phones.

With official Android support, doing that is a lot simpler. This Samsung-Qualcomm-Google relationship appears to be essential to investigating how that would function with future VR headsets, AR glasses, or both. Google would make it possible.

Right now, VR is the future. Then, AR

Although the hardware is gradually coming together, AR glasses have not yet been mastered. The quickest way to implement AR at the moment is with standalone VR headsets that display “passthrough” video of the actual environment with virtual reality experiences superimposed. The Meta Quest Pro uses a technique known as “mixed reality” in select apps. The next mixed reality headset from Apple ought to function similarly. When will HTC’s Vivi XR Elite launch in February? the same.

I anticipate Samsung and Google to begin by creating a comparable lightweight VR headgear with mixed reality characteristics, employing Qualcomm chips that are similar to those used in other hardware (or a next-gen chipset). AR glasses are then used.

Using a new AR2 Gen 1 chipset unveiled last fall, Qualcomm has already promised a new generation of low-power wireless AR glasses that will function with next-generation phones over the course of the next three years. The Samsung and Google relationship may potentially involve researching the development of future-proof phones and spectacles.

Google has a decade of experience in both AR and VR, and it is currently dipping its toes into the development of helpful AR glasses. Samsung has worked with Oculus and the Gear VR over its entire history. There seems to be a lot of collective knowledge between the two, as well as Qualcomm.

A new OS (think smartwatches)

The largest challenge and potential is for Android to develop into a new software experience for VR and AR, thus it makes perfect sense for Samsung to rely on Google in this area. Similar to the Meta Quest, VR headsets from the past five years have attempted to go it alone with specialized app shops. Cross-device interoperability, however, lies at the core of the concept of “the metaverse.” And easy app support, in principle.

As part of a cooperation signed two years ago, Samsung changed its strategy for its watches by implementing Google’s Wear OS. This move was made in an effort to bring Samsung’s watches closer to Google’s Android OS. However, Samsung also assisted Google in considering more sophisticated hardware and health features to update its dated wristwatch portfolio. which leads us to…

A road to Pixel hardware?

Google will probably try to create its own AR/VR hardware once more at some time. Clay Bevor and the team behind Google’s Daydream have turned their attention to Google Labs, where they are working on more experimental projects like Project Starline (and those research-based assistive AR glasses).

The path to Google’s upcoming XR hardware appears to pass through Samsung, much like it did for smartwatches before the Pixel Watch. The first Wear OS 3 experiment was the Galaxy Watch 4, and Google followed up more than a year later with a Pixel Watch with Fitbit functionality.

The complexity of AR and VR headsets is substantially higher. Google might hold off on a Pixel device a little longer. Maybe there will be a range of shapes and options, some of which may not even be headsets, as both Google’s Horkheimer and Qualcomm’s Amon appeared to imply. Keep in mind that Google’s concept of “ambient computing” entails immersive technology from every viewpoint, including non-worn items.

What year will this emerge?

The challenging query here is that. Google is likely to discuss this relationship in more detail at its I/O developer conference, which typically takes place in May. This would be just before Apple is likely to discuss its VR headset at WWDC. No indication of any actual hardware has yet been given. It’s not out of the question that a standalone VR headgear in the vein of the Meta Quest may appear sooner rather than later, but it would be a great shock if it did so in 2023.

In 2021, when Samsung and Google announced their collaboration on Wear OS 3, they also promised to release hardware by the end of the year. This time, no such statements or demonstrations were made, and 2024 would appear to be the earliest likely launch date.

In any case, 2023 appears to be a tumultuous year for the larger XR community. Although there will be a lot of VR hardware, it’s not yet obvious who can actually buy it. The wisest course of action for Samsung and Google may be to wait out this congested year and figure out how to provide better, potentially more affordable hardware in 2024.