Virtual Reality (VR) seeks to make the user a part of a virtual environment, and Augmented Reality (AR) seeks to augment the user’s real-life experience with virtual enhancements. Early forays into VR technology failed to deliver on the promise of a true virtual immersion until the introduction of the Oculus Rift headset, which was truly revolutionary. AR had greater success over the years, with technology such as heads-up displays in military fighter jets, but had not become practical or affordable for wider use.
Facebook bought Oculus and committed to making significant investments in the technology, while Samsung sought to leverage their leading market share in the mobile space with the advent of VR technology that adapted smartphones to a headset – in their case, the Gear VR. Microsoft exited the smartphone market and instead now focus on what they do best, in the personal computer operating system market with Windows 10 and with one of the most popular dedicated gaming consoles, the XBox One.
As investments and interest are growing in the VR and AR space with leading mobile manufacturers and software developers alike, Microsoft has forged a new strategy based on past success by developing software and letting hardware manufacturers compete for consumers with their own versions of the appropriate products. Microsoft has teamed up with Samsung to create a new VR environment that runs on Windows 10 and has become the basis for a convergence of AR and VR, which they call Mixed Reality (MR). Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) launched on October 17, 2017, with five major industry partners offering headsets to support this new platform. Dell, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and of course, Samsung will all compete for leadership in the WMR market.
Samsung is well positioned to take the lead in WMR technology with the introduction of the HMD Odyssey VR headset. The headset leverages Samsung’s coveted Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diodes (AMOLED) display technology to provide “bright, clear graphics” and to “get a broader view with dual screens that allow for a 110-degree field of vision.” In addition, Samsung includes headphones to provide “360° spatial sound that comes from every direction,” through a partnership with AKG Acoustics. The advanced microphone array, only offered amongst the WMR headsets, includes noise reduction for better interaction in the applications.
Microsoft’s website describes the Samsung integration as using “superior technology” with “inside-out tracking” built into the headset. Unlike other VR implementations in the past, the WMR and Samsung headset does not require any external sensors, so setup is quick and simple. Finally, the Odyssey headset is ergonomically designed to be fully adjustable for the best possible fit while providing exceptional comfort, including alignment of the display for pupil distance.
The Odyssey VR headset will be priced at $499 and ships on November 6, 2017. According to Gizmodo in Okay, Maybe This Microsoft VR Thing Won’t Suck, the Samsung HMD Odyssey is “the real star of the experience” as determined through their preview of new WMR technologies. Comparing the Odyssey headset to the Dell Visor, Gizmodo described the experience as “nearly night and day,” concluding that “everything felt smoother on the Samsung device.” CNET also cites Samsung’s advantages in Samsung Odyssey could be the Windows VR headset to beat (hands-on), where they say it may be “the best hardware of the holidays.” The Odyssey is an exceptional entry to the new WMR platform and will likely lead the market by providing a superior user experience.