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Samsung’s first mixed reality device probably won’t be a real Vision Pro rival

Published Apr 16th, 2024 6:04PM EDT
Qualcomm, Samsung, and Google execs talking about next-gen mixed reality headset tech at Unpacked 2023.
Image: Samsung

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The Apple Vision Pro features a sophisticated hardware and software experience that no augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) headsets available on the market can match. Rivals like Meta have criticized the expensive Apple spatial computer more than once, but I’m certain the Vision Pro alternatives of the future will draw inspiration from Apple’s gadget.

One of these devices might be the mysterious Samsung XR headset. The Korean giant is developing it in partnership with Google and Qualcomm. XR stands for mixed reality, so it would be a device that can support augmented and virtual reality experiences, just like Vision Pro.

If all this sounds new to you, I wouldn’t be surprised. Samsung invited Google and Qualcomm on stage during its Galaxy S23 event in February 2023 to tease the “next XR experience” they’re building together. More than a year later, that experience isn’t here. But could we see the gadget at Google I/O 2024 next month?

“Google’s been investing for a long time across both experiences and technology in AR and VR,” Google’s SVP of Android Hiroshi Lockheimer said during the Galaxy S23 event last year. “These technologies are integral to the new phase of computing as it can change the way we interact with people and information to get things done in the real world.”

“But delivering this next generation of experiences requires cutting-edge advanced hardware and software,” he continued. “That’s why our collaboration with Samsung and Qualcomm is so exciting.”

When Samsung, Google, and Qualcomm said they were building the next XR experience, we were already expecting Apple to unveil the Vision Pro at WWDC 2023. Apple’s then-unnamed spatial computer had appeared in reports for well over a year.

The joint Samsung, Google, and Qualcomm announcement sounded more like a declaration to compete against Apple at some point in the distant future. The companies didn’t set any release dates for new XR product announcements or share any specifics.

At this point, you might have forgotten this XR device was even in the works, but Google and Samsung might make some sort of mixed reality announcement at Google I/O 2024. SamMobile spotted the “AR announcement” teaser that Google posted on X a few days ago.

Here’s what Google posted on its @GoogleARVR account on X:

Mark your calendars. Join us at #GoogleIO on May 14th to learn about the latest developer products and #AR announcements!

That’s not enough to confirm that Samsung’s XR headset is coming out next month. And I’d speculate that Samsung would want to control the venue where it drops such a big announcement. It might be working with Google and Qualcomm, but the product Samsung teased last year will be a Samsung gadget.

Also, Google might be teasing something else. The company offers AR features on mobile, with Google Maps Live View being one such example. Google could always demo AR innovations without announcing any sort of new device. Or without having Samsung on stage. It could simply show off software advancements that will let developers create apps for whatever XR headset Samsung launches.

The teaser does signal that AR is important for Google, too. Or better said, that it continues to be important. Samsung and Google had been toying with AR well before the Vision Pro dropped. This wouldn’t be their first try at XR experiences, though the new headset should be better than any previous product.

I’m interested to see what sort of XR device Samsung can come up with, considering the Vision Pro is now a real product. Anything that Samsung makes will be compared to Apple’s spatial computer. But I expect Samsung’s device to be a lot more affordable than the $3,500 Vision Pro. The XR headset will probably compete against Meta’s VR gadgets rather than the Vision Pro.

Thankfully, we don’t have to wait that long to see what Google’s AR announcements are and whether Samsung is ready to introduce its XR device. Google I/O 2024 kicks off in about a month.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.