Samsung’s plans for virtual reality go beyond the company’s current Gear VR headset: The company is working on a standalone virtual reality (VR) headset that will incorporate positional tracking similar to the technologies now available on higher-end headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, revealed the company’s head of R&D for software and services Injong Rhee during the company’s developer conference in San Francisco Wednesday.
“We are working on wireless and dedicated VR devices, not necessarily working with our mobile phone,” Rhee said. Some of the other features that Samsung is exploring for the next generation of VR headsets is hand and gesture tracking. However, Rhee cautioned that it may take a few more years before we see these kinds of features in devices from Samsung, or anyone else for that matter. “VR is amazing, but the industry is still at its infancy,” he said.
In the mean time, Samsung is looking to double down on Gear VR, its mobile VR headset that makes use of the company’s smart phones for display and computing. “We think 2016 is shaping up to be the year of VR,” said Samsung director of software development Andrew Dickerson, revealing that the company will release its previously announced Gear 360 camera this week. He still didn’t announce a price for the camera, but it is widely believed to cost $350 when it goes on sale this Friday.
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Dickerson also said that Samsung is looking to make it easier to publish content filmed with Gear 360 and other VR cameras. He officially announced the VR Upload SDK, which Variety first reported earlier this week. This new SDK will allow camera makers to add the ability to upload content to Samsung’s Milk VR service directly to their own apps.
Dickerson also detailed new features to add interactivity to content published on Milk VR. With new upload editing tools, publishers will be able to add interactive trigger points to their own videos. Once viewers lock their gaze on such a trigger point, additional content gets unlocked — something that Samsung first premiered with its own serialized VR drama “Gone.”
Samsung’s plans for a standalone headset are intriguing, in part because it could potentially pit the company against its current partner Oculus, which developed the software platform that powers the Gear VR. However, it’s also possible that Oculus and its owner Facebook could become more of a platform operator, leaving it to Samsung and other company’s to build Oculus-powered headsets. In that case, both companies would be directly competing with Google, whose VR unit is reportedly also working on a standalone wireless headset.