The Mobile World Congress in Shanghai recently wrapped up, and some of the biggest news was Samsung’s surprise reveal of the ExynosVR III, a standalone virtual reality headset. We’ve gathered up all the info on the new device and the likely impact on the VR industry.
The reveal of the device was unexpected, and there’s still a lot we don’t know. Samsung released the reference design which includes specs such as an ARM Makli G71 MP20 GPY and a M@ Dual 2.5 GHz CPU. Unconfirmed, but strongly suspected, is support for 4K resolution at 75fps and Wide Quad High Definition at 90fps.
This is an all-in-one, or standalone, headset. No other equipment, like an external PC or smartphone, is required. Instead, processing power is provided by Samsung’s brand new Exynos 9 chip.
Also noteworthy are what appears to be cameras on the front of the headset. These are likely used for inside-out position tracking. This new model is apparently a prototype for future Samsung products, which now seem likely to include some combination of eye-tracking, hand-tracking, voice recognition and possibly even recognition of facial expressions.
A standalone headset needs to be worn on the user’s head. So, it needs to be lightweight and comfortable, even if just worn for a short period of time. While some hard-core tech people will be willing to put up with head and neck pain in order to explore virtual worlds, mainstream success for VR headsets will depend a lot on the comfort of the device.
Standalone VR head-mounted displays are cutting edge but not entirely new. We’ve seen similar products from Qualcomm and Intel. This isn’t a huge surprise. Powering a VR headset is a great way to illustrate a chip’s power and light weight.
The ExynosVR device is at least somewhat designed as a showcase for the Exynos 9 chip. Lightweight and powerful, the chip would fit just fine inside a smartphone. But there are certain characteristics of the chip which are necessary for mobile VR. Basically, the types of features the chip needs to power a VR headset will also power a smartphone.
Samsung likely has a larger strategy in mind beyond VR headsets. For starters, the Exynos processors are rarely seen outside of Samsung smartphones. The company has expressed a willingness to increase awareness of their processors by rebranding them along tiers. For instance, the Exynos 9 is the highest tier followed by the 7, 5 and 3.
As Samsung focuses on their chip brands, we’ll likely see more competition between the company and other chip makers such as Qualcomm and MediaTek.
There’s an interesting business relationship between Samsung and Qualcomm. Qualcomm’s failed Snapdragon 810 chip caused them to reach out to Samsung for help in future processor development. Perhaps Samsung’s success with Qualcomm encouraged them to develop chips of their own.
While the standalone VR headset is certainly an exciting development, it’s also only part of the story. Samsung’s increased promotion of their Exynos line is sure to influence the larger market. We’ll keep an eye on this developing story.