Samsung has been exploring the idea of releasing a virtual reality headset that does not depend on a smartphone for a while and may be just about to show the world what it’s got. According to Samsung’s head of research and development who spoke to Variety, the Korean company will release a standalone virtual reality headset when it outs its next generation of VR devices.
At the moment, Samsung’s only virtual reality headset, the Gear VR, relies on Samsung’s high-end Galaxy S and Galaxy Note smartphones to stream virtual reality content. The smartphone houses the content store through which content can be downloaded and then streamed on the Gear VR. The smartphone also provides the display since mobile VR headsets like the Gear VR lack screens of their own. The VR headset itself only houses the sensors necessary for head tracking and positioning for immersion in the virtual environment.
It is not yet clear how Samsung’s standalone virtual reality headset will work since Samsung already explored the idea of a headset that connects to a personal computer and deemed it counterproductive. Virtual reality headsets like those from Oculus (the Rift) and HTC (the Vive) that rely on PCs require very powerful and expensive PCs which is an impediment if they are to land in the hands of many.
Samsung’s Gear VR is one of several mobile virtual reality headsets in the market. Its core advantage is the price which Samsung has since slashed to about $100. Even though it has widely promoted the Gear VR by giving it out for free to those who pre-ordered the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, the need to have a pricey Samsung smartphone in order to use the Gear VR has been its biggest disadvantage.
Research firm IDC projects that 9.6 million units of virtual reality units will be sold this year bringing in $2.3 billion in revenues. While only 2 million units of tethered virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are expected to be sold in 2016, there are no estimates on the number of standalone VR headsets.
Samsung’s camera for shooting 360-degree content, the Gear 360, goes on sale tomorrow. It hopes that such a device and several others, will spur the creation of content that can be viewed through its VR headsets and entice more people into buying them so as to consume the content.