Which firm do you think of when somebody mentions VR? Sony with the imminent PSVR 2? Meta, the new owner of Oculus, with its Meta Quest Pro? HTC, with its amazing VIVE XR Elite? Apple, whose AR/VR headset isn't actually out yet but whose headset still generates thousands of words of speculation?
One name you probably didn't think of was Samsung. And that's odd, because it was here first. The Gear VR, developed in collaboration with the then-independent Oculus, came out in 2014. And since Samsung killed it off, there's been nothing since other than a vague hint that Samsung might be possibly maybe thinking about perhaps making a VR headset at some point in the near future.
Has Samsung missed the VR bus it used to drive?
Is Samsung making a VR headset?
Reports say that it is. According to news portal Naver News in South Korea, Samsung Display, Samsung Electro-Mechanics and key partners have been making several prototypes and are currently testing them. The goal isn't just to make a headset, but an entire ecosystem to rival the one Apple is developing.
According to the report, the first version should launch for developers in 2023 before a later consumer release: Samsung wants to create "killer content" in education, entertainment, healthcare and defence. That latter one probably sounds odd until you remember that Samsung is also in the weapons business.
The focus on content is important, and it's no coincidence that Apple is pushing that side of AR/VR very strongly too: with AR and VR the hardware is only important to a point, so for example I didn't get on with the original PSVR because it was too low-res for me and a bit fiddly to connect; the new PSVR 2 doesn't have those issues.
But provided it's not an actual obstacle, the hardware fades away in favour of what you can actually do with it – and that's all about the content. It's why Sony has lined up so many big-money launch titles for PSVR 2, a lesson learnt the hard way from the original PSVR that lacked killer titles for a very long time (and arguably still does; my PSVR is gathering dust).
I think it's a safe bet that Samsung hasn't given up on VR; the market is potentially too big for Samsung to ignore, and it has the resources to invest in products that may not become mass-market for a while yet – just as it did with folding phones, a bet that's now clearly paying off. Whatever Samsung's working on, I think it'll have been worth waiting for.