Samsung is one of the world's largest electronic businesses with all kinds of products from wearable smartwatches, activity trackers, smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks and Windows laptops, but it still doesn't know if virtual reality (or VR) is going to be a success or not. Samsung already has something of a technical success in the arena with the Gear VR, which was recently updated and has over a million users thanks in part to being offered free with select Samsung Galaxy smartphones. This is estimated to be around five times the combined total of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive competitor hardware but in the words of Samsung's president and chief strategy officer, Young Sohn, when it comes to if VR is mainstream: "Is [it] hype or mainstream? I don't have an answer." Still, a million customers seems to imply that it is a "yet" rather than an "if" remark. In the past, Samsung has introduced a number of different products with various specifications as they seek to define the market or at least gain an early foothold.
There are a few issues with virtual reality technology at the moment, including how we have something of a "chicken and egg problem right now," again according to Young Sohn. In order for VR to be considered mainstream, consumers need to be using high end technology and we will be needing some technological improvements. However, companies do not wish to commit the necessary investment into the technologies without the reassurance that the technology is indeed heading into mainstream. One example given is that current VR technology needs sharper screens, as the closer the display is to the eye, the higher the pixel density needs to be in order for image quality to be maintained. With this in mind, 10K or 11K display technology has been mooted but in order for Samsung to make this happen, the business would need to invest "at least $5 billion." Young also explained that Samsung has prepared a new standalone virtual reality headset designed as a competitor to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but is not planning to launch the device until it is clear that this type of device will be a commercial success: currently, Samsung's Gear VR devices are built with their high end flagship Android smartphones in mind such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy Note 7 handsets. The Gear VR is being used as a reason why a customer might want to buy a flagship Samsung Android device rather than a reason why a customer might by a VR headset.