Samsung Gears Up for Holidays with VR, Pop-Up Stores and Kristen and Dax

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Samsung is anticipating a successful holiday season, thanks to buzzed-about new virtual reality products, a pop-up store push, a humorous new campaign starring Kristen Bell and husband Dax Shepard—and a critical show of confidence from management.

The consumer electronics giant started the week off strong by announcing that it’s focusing its portfolio, Bloomberg reports, as excitement continues to grow amongst U.S. (and other) consumers who eagerly await the release of Samsung’s Gear VR Innovator.

According to CNET, the Innovator brings together Oculus Rift virtual reality technology with the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4 to create “a fully immersive virtual reality experience.”

Set to hit stores in December, the gadget will run $199, or be bundled with a Bluetooth controller for $249. CNET notes that this won’t be quite the same experience as the Oculus Rift or Sony’s Project Morpheus—because those have their own screens—but is definitely a step forward for mobile VR.[more]

Of the holiday marketing push starring the married actors, Samsung Telecommunications America’s Chief Marketing Officer Todd Pendleton commented,

“With this ad, we wanted to capture the true essence of the holiday season in a fun way that everyone can relate to. Kristen and Dax go big for the holidays and their traditions from wearing matching pajamas and sweaters to decorating the house Griswold style are all true to what they do in real life. Holidays are the time of year when families come together and create lifelong memories. Samsung gives consumers the ability to stay connected and capture this special time with our smartphones, tablets, wearables and TV’s.”

To help move all this “Gear,” Samsung is expanding its successful year-old Galaxy Studio pop-up store in New York’s Soho area to select U.S. markets this holiday season. Through January 5, look for Samsung Galaxy Studio locations in King of Prussia, PA; Atlanta, GA; Seattle, WA; Aventura, FL; and Natick, MA; Schaumburg, IL.

The red-hot collaboration between Facebook-owned Oculus and Samsung is just a taste of things to come, according to Oculus VR co-founder and CEO Brendan Irib.

“We’ll work closely with Samsung to develop more products,” Iribe said, though he wouldn’t share any specifics, CNET reports. “We successfully launched the Gear VR with Samsung this year and I’m sure we will continue close relation with Samsung, as always.” 

Samsung is hyping its consumer VR device with joint marketing with Audi. In the UK, customers checking out the Audi TT S Coupé can actually take it for a spin around a virtual track using the Innovator.

“This groundbreaking initiative adds a touch of theatre to automotive retail, allowing Audi customers to experience the thrill of the new third-generation TTS in its full glory,” Nick Ratcliffe, Head of Marketing for Audi UK, says in a press release.

Apple is also looking to make inroads into the world of virtual reality. TomsGuide.com notes that Apple just posted a job listing looking for app developers who know a thing or two about VR. As it is, a third-party company, Cordon Media, is already creating a case for the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus that “folds out to become a virtual reality headset for Apple’s smartphone.” It won’t be available till June.

Samsung, as part of looking to boost innovation as part of its brand turnaround, has extended its efforts to eye tracking technology as well.

The company recently introduced EyeCan+, the second generation of its eye tracking software that allows people with disabilities to travel the Internet and write or edit documents all by eye movements.

The technology was created by a volunteer group of engineers, The Verge reports. This time around, users don’t have to wear special glasses in order to make it work. Samsung isn’t planning to put EyeCan+ on the market, but will open-source the design. And who knows? It may even work within a virtual reality headset someday.

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