Samsung will give us a first glimpse at its plans for augmented reality (AR) at a developer event this week. The company is expected to unveil an AR Cloud service dubbed Project Whare, and may even preview a dedicated AR headset.
The Korean consumer electronics giant is holding its annual developer conference in San Francisco this Wednesday and Thursday, where it will focus on voice and artificial intelligence. Samsung even invited Spike Jonze, the director of everyone’s favorite dystopian AI film “Her,” to make its own fledging voice efforts look cool.
But aside from voice, Samsung is also going to shine a spotlight on another nascent technology: augmented reality (AR). The conference’s schedule lists a total of six sessions related to the subject, with one promising attendees help to become “a superstar AR developer.”
Not one but two sessions go into details about how to create AR emoji for Samsung’s handsets, something that Disney done for some of its most popular characters.
But aside from such eye candy, Samsung is also going to use the event to highlight more cutting-edge AR developments. One of them is Project Whare, an AR cloud initiative the company quietly has been working on out of its Samsung Next incubator.
Whare hasn’t been publicly announced yet; a Samsung spokesperson said that it would get a a “soft roll-out” at the conference, adding that it wanted to use the event to “uncover early market signals and feedback from potential audiences and industries.” The project has been described in job listings as a set of “cross platform developer services that will power multi-user, shared AR experiences and applications at scale” meant to “enable a new generation of augmented reality applications.”
“This infrastructure will support all developers in the AR community with a shared global management platform for AR assets,” according to one such job listing.
Samsung isn’t the only company working on such an AR cloud, with game developers like Niantic, tech giants like Google, AR headset manufacturers like Magic Leap and a number of smaller startups all working on the same basic idea: To take AR beyond simple phone camera filters, developers need to be able to make sense of the real world, store persistent digital information related to that world, and make it available to multiple users at the same time.
AR cloud technologies like Project Whare help developers with to create such persistent AR experiences for phone-based apps, but Samsung is clearly already thinking beyond the phone.
Samsung’s director of XR developer relations Farsh Fallah suggested during an appearance at the Virtual Reality Strategy conference in San Francisco last month that the company may show off a full-blown AR headset at the event. It’s unclear whether Samsung has any plans to actually turn this into a product aimed at consumers, but anything shown at the conference is likely to be a prototype.
Samsung’s new focus on AR comes as the company moves its virtual reality efforts from phone-based technology to high-end headsets. The company released one of the industry’s very first mobile VR headsets, the Gear VR, in late 2014. It followed up with a number of iterations, and disclosed in early 2017 that it had sold over 5 million units of the device. Gear VR received its last major update in March of 2017.
The company since partnered with Samsung on a high-end VR headset powered by an external PC, dubbed the Samsung Odyssey. An updated version of this headset was released last month, making it less likely that we will see significant VR hardware news at the event.
However, VR won’t be completely absent from Samsung’s developer conference: Italian VR game studio Symmetrical revealed on Twitter Monday that it will show off its VR horror game “Gates of Nowhere: Inferno” with an arena-style multi-player setup.