Samsung has reportedly found another device category on which to attach itself, with Engadget reporting that a virtual reality headset is in the works.
The report, which cites unnamed sources, says Samsung’s VR headset will be powered by the company’s flagship phones, such as the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 3, and could launch later this year. It will reportedly have an OLED display and will focus on gaming, but many of the details—including how head-tracking will work—remain unclear.
On some level, the growing interest in virtual reality—especially from tech heavyweights like Samsung and Sony—is good news. More competition ups the ante, encouraging companies to invest more in creating better products.
But virtual reality is still a nascent, unproven category, and a few bad apples could sour people on the concept. Oculus Rift founder Palmer Luckey expressed this concern just a couple days ago, saying that “really bad VR is the only thing that can kill off VR.”
“People don’t have experience with this technology,” Luckey told Engadget. “When it arrives, it has to be good.”
Everyone into the pool
Already, there are lots of companies looking for a slice of the VR pie. Some look promising, others not so much, but chances are the efforts from smaller companies will mostly fly under the radar. If Samsung is working on its own headset, the company will almost certainly plan a marketing blitz to let the world know about it. That could be a problem for virtual reality, if the actual product doesn’t match the hype.
We’ve seen similar situations with Samsung play out before. Last fall, the company aggressively marketed its Galaxy Gear smartwatch, but the device was panned by critics. And while interest in wearable technology seems to be growing, a lot of early adopters are abandoning their devices, including the Gear.
With virtual reality, the risk is arguably greater, because it’s so easy for the experience to go horribly wrong. If motion detection doesn’t sync perfectly with what’s happening on the screen, users can get sick, and it’s hard to imagine people staying excited for virtual reality if they’ve been made ill by previous attempts. While Samsung can afford to spit out new smartwatches every few months, it needs to get virtual reality right the first time.
Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.