It was only a matter of time, especially once Facebook bought Oculus Rift. In an effort to compete with Sony’s Project Morpheus virtual reality system, Samsung has adopted an “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach — namely, by teaming up with Oculus Rift to develop a platform that enables virtual reality experience and interaction for smartphones and media.
Samsung is working on the hardware end while Oculus works on the software, providing Samsung with assistance in developing its user interface and providing access to its mobile software development kit. In return, Samsung will provide Oculus access to its organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology, the next wave of LED technology that replaces the bright LED dots with sheets of light that allow for glare-free and flexible lighting at resolutions higher than 1080p — in other words, a lighting system perfect for the gaming side of Oculus Rift’s business.
Oculus Rift announced that it was working on a mobile software development kit last year, which is what Samsung is using. The setup will allow users to use their phones directly, rather than using a separate screen provided by the VR headset. Users would plug their phones into the headset and the phone will become the screen. The headset has sensors for motion-tracking to help control the media experience, and it can also be used with a game controller. Users currently interact with demos (which are a bit like rudimentary VR games) and apps by nodding, but in the final iteration, interaction will happen via touch and voice.
The device will likely be marketed as a virtual reality media player as well, much like Sony’s media-focused HMZ-T3. The rear-facing camera on the headset allows viewers to see through their phones, incorporating the real world with the digital one. It’s all a bit difficult to imagine, and the software is still in development, but suffice it to say that Samsung and Oculus Rift are looking to have the best of both worlds. It’ll be interesting to see how (and if) that marriage works, and how it improves on Sony’s model.