About a year ago, Samsung demonstrated its AR smartglasses prototype on the stage at CES 2020.
Now videos showing a new smartglasses model along with the company’s imaginations of future AR experiences have surfaced through unofficial but reliable channels.
First, the leaked Samsung Glasses Lite are slim Wayfarer-style glasses with thick frames and dual screens. It differs from the previous prototype and seems to lack the cameras and sensors for displaying and using virtual 3D content.
Instead, Glasses Lite appears to function primarily as a heads-up display, mirroring videos, games and desktops from smartphones (using the company’s existing Dex technology) and drones to a virtual large screen. The concept is based on physical peripherals, such as gamepads, keyboards, smartwatches and drone controllers, to interact with the virtual content.
The video also suggests a sunglass mode, which darkens the tint on the lenses with a tap of the temple, for outdoor use. We’ve seen this trick with transition lenses, which adjust the hue based on the brightness of the lighting.
The second video gives us a glimpse of how Samsung envisions wearable computers with world and hand-tracking technology, combining what HoloLens can do today with what the Marvel Cinematic Universe envisioned for AR experiences.
We see a gentleman typing on a virtual keyboard and viewing a virtual display, interacting with 3D architectural renderings with hand gestures. He accepts an incoming video call and his outside colleagues (or clients) appear as volumetric avatars in his space, similar to the technology previously demonstrated by Magic Leap acquisition Mimesys. With a pinch gesture, he expands the 3D content to fill his room, allowing him and his participants to remotely view the content at scale.
The videos arrive courtesy of the WalkingCat Twitter account, which has a long track record of leaking future products and announcements from Samsung, Microsoft and other tech giants, including the unveiling of Lenovo’s ThinkReality A3 smartglasses about a month before the official announcement. Although not verified, they appear to be legitimate. We may find out more at an upcoming Samsung presentation; the company is one of the exhibitors at the Mobile World Congress 2021, which kicks off Monday.
Samsung announced its intention to enter the AR field in 2016, around the same time that rumors of Apple’s smartglass development first surfaced and shortly after the original HoloLens hit the scene.
Since then, Samsung’s trajectory of AR products and services roughly followed Apple’s and became an early adoption partner of ARCore for Android, soon following on the heels of Apple’s ARkit, launching its AR emojis in response to Apple’s Animoji, and investing in AR display technology after Apple bought its own AR display maker. At the same time, Samsung has beaten Apple in the market with rear-facing depth sensors (although they have now withdrawn from the technology in recent generations of Galaxy smartphones) and AR smart tags. The company has also begun to incubate its own AR cloud platform for advanced AR experiences.
Now it appears that Samsung’s research and development of AR wearables is closely related to Apple’s own work. And the company hasn’t been shy about teasing its progress as Samsung has now unveiled a prototype on stage and produced several concept videos featuring smartglasses and AR experiences. Apple is officially keeping its plans closer to the vest, but that doesn’t stop rumors and reports from giving us an early glimpse of their AR / VR headset expected to be released next year.