Unnamed sources have informed the Wall Street Journalthat Google is working on a standalone VR headset focused in the midrange of the VR hardware spectrum, that doesn’t require a phone, a game console, or a computer.
Sources told the paper that Google’s VR headset will consist of outward-facing cameras, high-powered processors, and a screen. The headset will also feature chips from startup Movidius, that will track the motion of the user’s head by way of the built-in cameras. Movidius told the paper that it works with many companies in regards to augmented and virtual reality, and did not provide additional info.
One source indicated that Google’s VR headset will make its debut this year, while others stated that the device is in an early stage of development, and that Google could change its mind and not release the device. Unfortunately, additional details weren’t provided, such as how the VR headset would receive power given that it’s not tethered to a desktop or console.
News of the standalone VR headset arrives after reports surfaced last week that Google was working on hardware to rival the Samsung Gear VR. This model will require an Android smartphone to be inserted in order to achieve the VR experience. It will also sport a “solid” plastic casing, better lenses, and more sensors that what’s offered with Google Cardboard.
Unlike the Samsung Gear VR, users donning Google’s VR solution will be able to use a large number of Android smartphones rather than just a few. The company is also said to be putting VR technology directly into the Android platform so that the new VR headset will have native support rather than depend on special apps.
Google’s Cardboard successor is slated to be revealed during Google I/O this May, followed by a consumer launch in September. There’s talk that Google will follow the “Nexus” distribution model by providing a “flagship” product and introducing features in Android that can be used in similar products offered by Google’s partners. The price is expected to be similar to what we currently see with the Samsung Gear VR.
Google first dipped its toes into the VR industry with the launch of Cardboard back in 2014. The device not only utilizes cardboard, but a single rubber band, two lenses and pieces of Velcro. To use the device, Cardboard owners simply slip their Android smartphone into place and load up the compatible apps. Google Cardboard is open source, meaning partners can create similar solutions and applications that fall under the “Works with Google Cardboard” label.
2016 will see several different classes of VR hardware hit the market. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive will bring high-end virtual reality to the PC, and the Sony PlayStation VR will be released for the PlayStation 4 console. If Google launches its stand-alone VR unit, it will seemingly be the next step down based on the report, followed by Google’s budget-friendly Cardboard successor. Microsoft is diving into the AR industry while Apple is said to be working on its own VR solution for iPhone owners.
We’ll keep our eye on Google I/O over the next few months to see if the company reveals one or two VR headset solutions. The idea of native VR support in Android is exciting to say the least, and could open the door to loads of mobile VR possibilities.