Samsung scrambles to launch virtual reality headset before Facebook

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Samsung’s like the spoiled brat you went to school with: they have almost everything, but if another kid comes in with a toy that’s not part of their collection, mummy and daddy will make sure they get it.

Rumor has it the South Korean company is now developing its own virtual reality headset that will work alongside Galaxy devices — and it is desperate to get the product to market before Facebook and Sony launch theirs.

“We’re told by sources close to Samsung that a virtual reality headset is not only in the works at the company’s mobile division, but it’s set to be announced this year,” Engadget reports.

“The urgency is said to be a measure of beating Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus to market.”

Samsung’s headset will give gamers the opportunity to immerse themselves in their favorite titles like never before. It will reportedly connect to the company’s own smartphones and tablets and turn mobile games into mind-blowing virtual experiences in which you are the main character.

Samsung has already issued an early version of the headset to game developers, according to Engadget’s sources. It is currently powered by existing flagships — the Galaxy S5 and the Galaxy Note 3 — but it’s thought the final version will require “next-gen” Samsung devices that haven’t yet been announced.

Engadget insists this is nothing to do with Samsung’s rumored “Galaxy Glass” project, which the South Korean company hopes will one day take on Google Glass. Instead, this is a entirely separate device that’s likely to resemble an Oculus Rift — the headset that kickstarted the modern generation of virtual reality before it was bought by Facebook.

It’s not entirely clear how the headset will work at this point. The Rift combines with cameras aimed at the player to detect user movement and relay it back to the game, but that seems like a cumbersome approach to a setup that must combine with something as small and as mobile as a phone.

Developers will almost certainly need to modify their Android games to be compatible with such a device — or build new ones — because existing titles just won’t work as virtual reality games. In virtual reality games, you are the main character.

Samsung’s primary aim is to beat Facebook and Sony to market with a virtual reality headset, the sources claim, but the electronics giant also wants to ensure its device is more affordable than the others — at least initially. That’s not something Samsung traditionally concerns itself with, but it could be the thing that gives it a valuable lead in the virtual reality market before its competitors throw their hats (or headsets) into the ring.

Sony hasn’t provided a release date for Project Morpheus yet, but the first Oculus Rift built for consumers is scheduled to go on sale next year. Samsung has a little bit of time to get its own device out of the gates, then.

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