Roughly a year ago, Samsung demoed its AR smartglasses prototype on stage at CES 2020.
Now, videos showing off a new smartglasses model along with the company's imaginings of future AR experiences have surfaced through unofficial yet reliable channels.
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First, the leaked Samsung Glasses Lite are sleek, Wayfarer-style glasses with thick frames and dual displays. It's a departure from the previous prototype, appearing to lack the cameras and sensors for displaying and interacting with 3D virtual content.
Instead, Glasses Lite appears to function mainly as a heads up display, mirroring videos, games, and desktops from smartphones (using the company's existing Dex technology) and drones to a virtual big screen. The concept relies on physical peripherals, such as gamepads, keyboards, smartwatches, and drone controllers, for interaction with the virtual content.
The video also proposes a sunglasses mode, with the tint on the lenses darkening with a tap of the temple, for use outdoors. We've seen this trick with transition lenses, which adapt tint based on the brightness of lighting.
The second video gives us a glimpse of how Samsung envisions wearable computing with world and hand tracking technology, a combination of what HoloLens can do today with what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has imagined 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 remote colleagues (or clients) appear as volumetric avatars in his space, similar to the technology previously demoed by Magic Leap acquisition Mimesys. With a pinch gesture, he expands the 3D content to fill his room so that he and his remote participants can view the content at scale.
The videos arrive courtesy of the WalkingCat Twitter account, which has a long track record of leaking forthcoming products and announcements from Samsung, Microsoft, and other tech giants, including its disclosure of Lenovo's ThinkReality A3 smartglasses about a month ahead of its official announcement. While not authenticated, they appear legitimate. Perhaps we'll find out more at an upcoming Samsung presentation; the company is among the exhibitors at Mobile World Congress 2021, which starts on Monday.
Samsung revealed its intention to enter the AR field in 2016, around the same time that rumors of Apple's smartglasses development first surfaced and shortly after the original HoloLens arrived on the scene.
Since then, Samsung's trajectory of AR products and service have roughly followed those of Apple, becoming an early adoption partner of ARCore for Android, which followed quickly 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 acquired its own AR display maker. At the same time, Samsung has beaten Apple to market with rear-facing depth sensors (though they have now retreated from the tech in recent generations of Galaxy smartphones) and AR smart tags. The company has also started incubating its own AR cloud platform for advanced AR experiences.
Now, it appears that Samsung's research and development of AR wearables are running closely alongside Apple's own work. And the company hasn't been shy about teasing its progress, as Samsung has now revealed a prototype on stage and produced several concept videos with smartglasses and AR experiences. Apple is officially keeping its plans closer to the vest, but that hasn't stopped rumors and reports from giving us an early glimpse of their AR/VR headset that is expected to arrive next year.