I get the feeling that Samsung often makes hardware just to be sure they've got something ready, on the slim but possibly lucrative chance that an upcoming hardware market explodes. The Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Gear, the Gear Fit, the Galaxy Beam - all of them slightly crazy niche products following a trend. If Engadget is to be believed, you can add a virtual reality headset to the mix. A Samsung VR headset, similar to the Oculus Rift but intended for use with Samsung phones and tablets, is rumored for production later this year.
Why? At this stage in Samsung's corporate development, it might be more appropriate to ask, "why not?" Engadget's sources claim that Samsung wants to beat Oculus owner Facebook and Sony's project Mobius to market, besting them on price and banking on the strength of the Galaxy brand. The VR device would be marketed as a phone and tablet accessory made specifically to play Android games. The report claims that this project is separate and distinct from the "Galaxy Glass," another project said to compete directly with Google's own Glass.
At this stage in the device's development, it's using an OLED screen or screens for the primary display and running in conjunction with current-generation Samsung mobile hardware. The final version is said to rely on even more powerful Samsung phones and tablets yet to be revealed. The price would be lower than Sony or Oculus, which would be impressive, since the development kits for the latter are already well below the $500 mark. If gaming is going to be Samsung's focus, relying on Android gaming developers to provide consumer-ready titles for an untested market seems like an odd choice.
When it was released, the Galaxy Gear was thought to be a quickly-produced competitor to a nebulous "Apple iWatch" at least as much as it was a true competitor to devices like the Pebble and the Sony Smartwatch. Assuming that Engadget's report is correct, a Samsung VR helmet is probably a hedge bet - a product created just to make sure that Samsung has a horse in the race if VR turns out to be "the next big thing." Whether or not it's actually a good idea, or even a marketable one, probably doesn't matter all that much to Samsung. They're on top of the world with money to burn, and a few hundred million spent on a speculative product would be acceptable to make sure they stay there.
The VR headset is in the intermediate development stage. A lot could happen between now and a theoretical release later this year - the project could be scratched, or it could be the cornerstone of the winter lineup. Or this entire rumor could be so much hogwash. I wouldn't doubt that Samsung is investigating VR's viability, since it seems to be the hot ticket at the moment. Are they actually going to release a device? For that, we'll just have to wait and see.