Nokia (NYSE:NOK) plans to announce a virtual reality (VR) project next week at an event in Los Angeles, according to a Re/code article, the most significant push into hardware since Nokia sold its devices business to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) in April 2014. Word of the July 28 event first came last week.
The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, also indicates that Nokia wants to get a piece of the expected VR market that Samsung Electronics, HTC, Facebook's (NASDAQ: FB) Oculus and Sony are all jostling to position themselves in.
According to the report, Nokia Technologies developed the product, and the VR project is part of the group's ongoing efforts to explore new technologies and see how it can leverage the company's technology and patents to develop new products. Nokia declined to comment, according to the report.
As Re/code notes, Nokia has said little about its virtual reality plans. At a recent shareholder meeting, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri did mention "immersive imaging" as one of the areas the company was pursuing.
Nokia has gotten back into hardware via the N1 tablet, though that device is manufactured, distributed and sold by Foxconn. The company is continuing to look for the right hardware partner before jumping back into the smartphone business via licensing its brand and technology, which won't happen until the fourth quarter of 2016 at the earliest.
Nokia still holds onto more than 10,000 patents, many related to mobile phone technologies. Indeed, Nokia has already made forays into handset technologies since the Microsoft deal. It currently offers the Z Launcher app on the Google Play app store that lets users scribble a letter or two to find their content more quickly. Over time, Nokia has said, the Z Launcher learns what applications are in use and predicts and highlights the applications consumers are expected to want based on time of day and location. The N1 includes the Z Launcher.
Meanwhile, HTC and Valve have partnered to launch the Vive VR headset later this year, and Facebook's Oculus and Sony are expected to launch their own virtual reality headsets in 2016. Samsung has already gotten into the market with its Gear VR headset. Yet next year could be the year that VR goes mainstream.
"The industry needs a successful first year," Jeff Gattis, head of marketing for HTC's emerging devices business, told CNET recently. "Next year is critical."
Gattis said an industry target of 2 million to 3 million units would be a solid start for a sector that flopped in the 1990s when computing power was much less than it is today. Gattis said that more importantly, virtual reality needs to wow gaming enthusiasts and technology early adopters to avoid a repeat of past failures.
- see this Re/code article
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