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Samsung partners with Facebook to beat Sony in VR headset war

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch received a lot of criticism when it emerged on the market last September. For many, it was overpriced, clunky, unattractive, slow and laggy, and lacked the basic capabilities of what one would expect in a smartwatch. Countless numbers of tech reviewers called the Galaxy Gear nothing more than “gum under a person’s shoe” – an expensive piece of gum, at least – because of its $299 price tag. In short, it was a geeky gadget that only the most enthusiastic techies among us would love.

And that’s bound to be the same impression Samsung will receive with its virtual reality headset. The company’s working with now Facebook-owned virtual reality company Oculus VR to achieve a first in smartphone manufacturing history: Samsung will be the first smartphone manufacturer to create a virtual reality headset for its mobile devices, likely competing with Sony’s Morpheus project when Sony announces it later this year.

Samsung’s virtual reality headset looks to work in tandem with the company’s own mobile devices. There will be no screens on the device, as Samsung looks to pair the virtual reality headset with its current smartphone and tablet displays to enhance the Samsung gaming experience. As of now, Samsung has been working with Oculus to test the virtual reality headset when paired with its older Galaxy S4. The results have been impressive, with Oculus’s software empowering the mobile gaming encounter.

With Samsung working with Facebook’s newly-acquired virtual reality company, there has to be a deal in this, right? Yep. Both Samsung and Oculus will benefit from this new deal: while Samsung gets access to Oculus’s virtual reality gaming software, Oculus will benefit from the use of Samsung’s OLED 1080p+ panels. Samsung will also use its hardware expertise to develop Oculus’s headsets when their release time arrives, leaving Oculus free to focus on gaming entirely – and Samsung to focus on hardware without worrying about the impression stemming from its often throw-it-on-the-wall software approach. From this deal, at least, we can expect a social gaming experience where Facebook will be at the center of shared information and multi-user gaming. If you’ve tired of playing Angry Birds Go!, for example, with its “invite a user from Facebook to win a few points” prizes, you’ll have to make an adjustment to sport Samsung’s first virtual reality headset.

Facebook acquired Oculus with a goal in mind: to take virtual reality gaming to even greater heights, and other companies such as Sony have progressed forward in their virtual reality experiments. Samsung, then, is late to the game with its virtual reality headset and seems to be entering this race (as it has done with the Galaxy S5 Prime) in order to compete with other manufacturers, rather than provide innovation in the gaming encounter. Why not create a virtual reality headset of your own, rather than go out and do “deals” with companies like Oculus? Where has innovation gone, if all we do is sit around and steal the ideas of others? If Samsung can create a Note device that sells millions, why can’t it also compete with its own original headset?

And yet, at the same time, are Samsung’s actions not typical of other manufacturers on the market? How many times have we seen HTC use aluminum metal because of Apple’s aluminum metal iPhone, or LG’s software implementations that mimic Samsung’s software features, including the company’s LG G3 UI? Have we not seen Apple acquire 24 companies in the last 18 months, between Authentec’s fingerprint scanning capabilities and the mapping capabilities of companies such as HopStop and others, just to implement those features into the iPhone instead of creating a fingerprint scanner from scratch or improving their own Apple Maps and competing with Google Maps without acquiring companies to do so? What And what about the fact that, until Samsung decided to create a smartwatch, no Android manufacturer even planned to create one – and then, LG and HTC will rely on Google’s Android Wear instead of creating an OS of their own? Tizen is likely not gonna rock the world when the first Tizen smartphone emerges this year, but at least it’s Samsung’s own OS that provides something unique and distinct from Android, Windows, and iOS.

In short, Samsung’s deal with Oculus/Facebook is a wise investment; it shows that the company realizes its own limitations. After all, is that not what LG and HTC will do this year when Android Wear is announced? Is this not the same thing Apple does when it buys its camera chips from Sony, or acquires a company like Authentec to do its fingerprint-scanning tech? Samsung may not have the creative gaming juices that Sony has, for instance, but it’s willing to join its superiors when it can’t beat them. And maybe that’s the secret to Samsung’s success.

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