As the spat between VR and AR wages on, a Samsung C-Labs team thinks it might have the answer. Four Samsung engineers have spent the last six months putting together this pair of prototype AR and VR smartglasses, Monitorless, designed to let you stream web pages, apps, games and movies from your phone or PC to the heads up displays.
I tried on the bulky, plasticky prototype, which I had to hold on my face, but the Monitorless team assured me this can get a lot thinner and sleeker looking. The mirrored, electro chromic glass is certainly eye-catching but they're no Snap Spectacles.
I also got to do a software demo, not on the prototype, but on a Gear VR headset using its passthrough camera mode. The whole idea is that you can switch between virtual and augmented reality on the wireless glasses. What I saw was a series of hovering, interactive web pages all around me - there's apparently no limit to this 360 degree work view.
I used a connected mouse to navigate, press play on a video etc while the real world picture could be seen in the background. In the VR-style mode, you can then choose to toggle to 'turn off' the view of reality and have a more personal, cinematic mode.
Now, the Wi-Fi on the MWC showfloor was pretty shocking in terms of speed so I'm going to take the engineers' word for it and put the lag, which did make me feel a tiny bit queasy, down to that. It's worth pointing out that these glasses totally rely on decent Wi-Fi to stream what you're playing or working on.
All the elements looked fairly clear and vivid but also a bit uncanny calley 'unreal' too. It's too soon to comment more on the picture as it will look completely different on the smartglasses than it did for my demo. The glasses themselves house a CPU, projector, antenna and battery and connect via Wi-Fi Direct though the clever thing is that the set up gets the phone or PC to do most of the processing work.
If this thing can be slimmed down and stylised a bit more, with fast, non vom inducing images, we'd be pretty excited to see what a final product looks like. This idea of quickly switching between an AR mode and a VR mode - and not just a 'chaperone' style outline of the room - makes a lot of sense for the future of these types of devices. It's something Microsoft and Intel are exploring too.
Alongside Monitorless, C-Labs teams were focusing on Gear VR software with a travel app, a home design app and software that helps fill in blind spots and correct distortions for people with vision problems. In a pretty quiet MWC all round, it's good to see Samsung is still expanding what VR can do and encouraging out-there ideas from its engineers and designers.