BARCELONA, Spain — Samsung is working out a roadmap for so-called mixed reality products, a senior executive for the South Korean technology giant told CNBC, as it looks to push into devices seen by many electronics makers as key for future growth.
Mixed reality has been touted as the next big shift in computing just as the smartphone was, hence companies from Meta to Microsoft are investing in it.
Mixed reality refers to technologies that blend the virtual and physical world. This could involve augmented reality where virtual images or video are overlaid onto the real world. Mixed reality apps and experiences could be accessed via headsets worn by a user.
Patrick Chomet, an executive vice president at Samsung Electronics, told CNBC in an interview that the company is “working out” a roadmap for mixed reality products. He declined to give specifics on when such a product could be released.
Chomet, who was speaking to CNBC at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, highlighted Samsung’s partnership with Alphabet’s Google and U.S. chip giant Qualcomm that was announced in February. The three companies gave very few details about what the partnership entails but said it would focus on mixed reality.
Qualcomm sells a series of chips called Snapdragon XR specifically designed for mixed reality products, such as headsets. Samsung has years of experience in hardware design. While Google’s strength lies in its Android operating system and developers who make apps for it.
Chomet said the partnership is not just about the three companies, however, but also designed grow the mixed reality market.
“The reason why we announced is, is beyond Qualcomm, Google and Samsung alone, we want to prepare the whole ecosystem. There will be many, many developers, content companies and app companies that will prepare innovation and experiences for that ecosystem,” Chomet said.
“Yes, we can do devices. Yes, Qualcomm can do chipsets, yep. Yes, Google can do OS [operating system]. But then in the end, we need more than that, to make a vibrant ecosystem.”
Competition from Apple, Meta
Meta is one company that has staked its future on the melding of virtual and physical worlds. In October, the company launched the $1,500 Meta Quest Pro mixed reality headset.
And Bloomberg reported in January that Apple is gearing up to release a mixed reality headset in the spring, which would bring a major electronics player into the fray.
Microsoft meanwhile has its own mixed reality headset called HoloLens. And on Monday, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi took the wraps off of a prototype set of augmented reality glasses.
Samsung is no stranger to these virtual experiences. The company launched its first virtual reality headset in 2015 called the Gear VR. At the time it was built by Oculus, the company Facebook owns. Samsung discontinued the Gear VR in 2020 as the device failed to take off in a big way.
At the time, the product required a smartphone to be inserted into the headset. But electronics makers are moving away from this model and toward wireless headsets.
Samsung’s Chomet said that while virtual reality is good for gaming, “we believe there is more potential in some mixed reality … so we are going to advance the roadmap in that direction.”
Leo Gebbie, an analyst at CCS Insight, said some sort of “smart glasses would slot beautifully” into Samsung’s portfolio of devices from smartphones to watches.
“Alongside its smartphones, it already has wearable devices like the Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Buds. All of these would be optimised to work together to deliver the best possible user experience, furthering the ecosystem tie-in that many big tech companies are so focused on today,” Gebbie said.