UPDATE 16/05/2017: At Google IO, it was announced that Google are creating a standalone version of the Daydream Viewer.
Google has been no stranger to the world of VR, but rather than trying to compete with Facebook or Valve at the premium end, they’ve lead the charge in the mobile VR space, which is arguably the market segment that will have the largest audience and the lowest barrier to entry.
It all started with the Google Cardboard, an almost throwaway side project that essentially established the first working standard for mobile VR HMDs. This open-platform gift is what we have to thank for the flood of awesome (and not so awesome) plastic mobile HMDs.
Google have not rested on their laurels however and pushed ahead with their own proprietary HMD known as the Daydream. This was a neat rethink of mobile VR that’s comfortable and immersive, but the promised compatible phones have been slow to release.
Now as the 2017 Google IO developer conference kicks off rumour has it that the Big G will be announcing a new VR product or platform. However, this is not going to be a smartphone-powered HMD like the Daydream, but a standalone device.
This news was reported on the 16th of May in an exclusive article by Variety who cites “multiple sources with knowledge of the project” as evidence of the claim.
This new headset will not require a PC or phone to work and is completely standalone. Of course, within a day or two we’ll all know whether this rumour is true, but if Google is working on such a project then the IO conference is where we’ll hear about it. After all, that’s where Daydream was announced.
Whether the rumoured device is really only a VR unit seems unlikely. Apple and Microsoft are mainly interested in augmented reality, although Apple has filed several VR patents over the years. Augmented and mixed reality technologies have a much wider scope than VR. Google has also funded several projects, such as Tango, where they’ve developed advances AR and MR technologies.
In a world that’s already seen the Microsoft Hololens and Avegant Lightfield it doesn’t make all that much sense for Google to release a dedicated mobile VR unit when the Daydream and countless other HMDs do the job just fine.
Never Underestimate Google
That being said, we’ve learnt not to underestimate Google when it comes to apparently counter-intuitive decisions. If this is a purely VR device then surely it will be part of a larger ecosystem. It will also be an almost unique product, since there are no true, independent and untethered VR devices on the market for direct comparison.
Stay tuned as we’ll report on more details if and when an announcement is made.