Samsung Developer Conference: VR and More

VR was the big thing at the Samsung Developer Conference, and one of the points that got driven across, both in the keynotes and in other talks throughout the day, was that VR is a fundamentally new medium—something we haven’t seen since the motion picture.Photo Apr 27, 10 37 04 AM

Injong Rhee, the executive VP of R&D for Software and Services, laid out some of VR’s main application areas: Gaming, Sports, Travel, Education, Theme Parks, Animation, Music, and Real Estate. Nothing too new here, but it is a good summary of the major use cases, and they echo what we’ve heard in our own research.

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He also mentioned some of their biggest areas for innovation: Weight, dizziness, image quality, insufficient computing power, restricted mobility, limited input control. For anyone who’s tried the Gear VR and had to use the control pad on the side of the visor, I think we can agree it’s not ideal for long periods of time. And while some VR apps leave me and others with no nausea at all, other apps, where you’re moving around and stepping up and down, can certainly cause some discomfort. I’m curious to see how some of those problems of basic human physiology can be overcome.Photo Apr 27, 10 41 04 AM

A fascinating session after the keynote was with Brett Leonard, who many years ago directed Lawnmower Man, a cautionary tale about VR, which despite the bleak dystopic possibilities it portrayed, inspired many of today’s VR pioneers. Leonard appeared with his brother Greg, a composer, and Frank Serafine, an Oscar-award winning sound designer who did the sound for Lawnmower Man.

Brett, Greg, and Frank made a solid case for VR as a new medium that has yet to be even partially explored, and will surely have a plethora of new conventions that storytellers will need to work with. We’ve become familiar with many aspects of the language of film, such as things happening off screen but are implied to be happening. But with the 360-degree experience of VR, there’s no longer that same framing of shots, or things happening off the screen. The viewer chooses where to look.

Brett also listed his five laws of VR, which cover some of his concerns, given that it is a powerful medium that could have real consequences for people’s minds and physiology, particularly developing children. His laws, very paraphrased are:

  1. Take it seriously.
  2. VR should promote interconnecting with humanity, not further reinforcing all the walls we already have, and that technology so far has helped to create.
  3. VR is its own reality.
  4. VR should be a safe space—there are a huge amount of innovations possible, things that we haven’t been able to consider before. This may be especially so for medical and psychological treatments.
  5. VR is the medium of the global human.

Another interesting part of the talk was about true 360-degree sound, which Serafine said hadn’t really been done well before, but with the upcoming Dolby Atmos theaters, finally has.

Good 360-degree sound, not just stereo like we’re used to, will be a big part of VR feeling increasingly real, and will pose a challenge for VR storytelling, because it means recording becomes more complex, and consequently editing and mixing.

Connected Car

Samsung also announced their effort for the connected car, with a device that looks a lot like the Automatic (previously blogged about here) or the Mojio. It will offer all the features of those other devices—driving feedback that can become a driver score (measuring hard braking, fast accelerating, hard turns, and the like), as well as an LTE connection that allows it to stay connected all the time and serve as a WiFi hotspot. But Samsung adds a little more interest to the game with vendor collaborations, like with Fiat, where you can unlock the car, or open the trunk from your app. This can’t currently be done with other devices.

It should come out later this year, and will also have a fleet offering, which should appeal to enterprise companies. If they have more of these exclusive offering because of Samsung’s relationships with various vendors, maybe it will do better than its competitors.

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