While augmented reality made more of a cameo appearance during Samsung's official grand unveiling of the Galaxy S10 line-up on Wednesday, it's the company's move into 5G connectivity that has huge implications for AR.
After the 2018 edition of Samsung Unpacked cast augmented reality as a major player, this year's event, unfolding on stage in San Francisco, hardware was the headliner, with the company introducing a fresh crop of Galaxy wearables, the new Galaxy Fold foldable handset, and the latest in the Galaxy S series of smartphones, which includes the company's first 5G handset, the Galaxy S10 5G.
"Since its launch ten years ago, the Galaxy S series has stood for premium innovation — offering consumers an incredible experience, and the ability to find the device that's right for them," said DJ Koh, president and CEO of the IT and mobile communications division of Samsung Electronics, in a statement. "Galaxy S10 builds on that incredible legacy, and delivers breakthrough display, camera, and performance innovations. With four premium devices, each built for a unique consumer in mind, Samsung is leveraging a decade of industry leadership to usher in a new era of smartphone technology."
After waxing poetic about the possibilities that 5G networks bring to consumers (including a mention of augmented reality), Samsung announced its 5G carrier partners, with Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Vodaphone rounding out the roster.
In addition to 5G networking, Samsung made a push forward in its sensor game as well, with the addition of a 3D depth-sensing camera to the Galaxy S10 5G that can capture 3D images and measure real world spaces.
"As network speeds get faster, we'll be able to use our phones to do things we can hardly imagine today. To power these experiences, we outfitted the S10 5G with a cutting-edge camera system that includes a powerful new 3D-sensing depth camera," said Drew Blackard, senior director, product marketing and portfolio strategy for Samsung Electronics America, during the presentation.
"For starters, this allows you to take even more amazing photos and videos. For example, you can add things like background blur to your videos in real time. It maps and measures the world around you in incredible detail and accuracy. And for augmented reality, this is going to be a game changer. With faster network speeds and 3D spatial mapping, you'll be able to interact with the world around you in real time, and it will feel more real."
It was in the event's waning moments that Samsung made its AR pitch for 5G with a sizzle reel of AR concepts that the company posted earlier this month.
Reminiscent of AT&T's prophetic ad campaign from 1993, Samsung envisions innovations like interactive transparent displays that entertain children, smart mirrors that empower clothing designers to create new apparel with hand gestures, and massively multiplayer AR games that AR cloud platforms, such as Samsung's own Project Whare, promise.
The S10 series also brings improvements to AR Emojis, including the ability to track eyes, tongues, arms, legs, and body. The latest iteration to AR Emojis offer more customization options, stickers (including ones that users can create for themselves), backgrounds, expressions, hairstyles, outfits, accessories, and more. Finally, Samsung is adding a Mask Mode to AR Emojis, which will enable users to touch-up photos by replacing their faces with emojis.
But it's the hidden hand of 5G that represents the most significant milestone for AR that Samsung introduced today. The leap forward in network speeds and vastly reduced latency will make it possible to render more complex 3D content, offload heavier processing via cloud computing, enable multiplayer experiences, and expose persistent content instantaneously. While it will take some time for 5G-compatible handsets to begin saturating the market, Samsung has opened the gates.