Not too long ago it was announced that Google had called in the help of HTC and Lenovo to be the hardware partners for its standalone Google Daydream headset. Each company would create its own unique take on the standards drawn up by Google to provide a premium mobile VR experience that relies on neither a drop-in smartphone nor being tethered to a computer.
Late in July a new piece of news came came to the fore, indicating that HTC would be bringing another non-Daydream standalone product to market.
The Same but Different?
None of the reports on this new product are very specific and there are almost as few details on the technical specs of the HMD as with the Daydream variant. Actually, we don’t even know if this is a variant of the Google-approved product or something completely different.
The shadowy press image of the HMD looks suspiciously similar to the HTC Daydream from the outside. That makes sense of course, if you’ve already designed an ergonomic HMD with space for all sorts of performance components, why reinvent the wheel?
Indeed, there are many possibilities when it comes to this China-only product. The most obvious situation is that this is exactly the same headset hardware-wise as the upcoming Daydream HMD, but simply stripped of all the Google software bits. That makes sense since Google is pretty much banned in China.
So this version of the HMD will get it’s software from the HTC Viveport platform and presumably you won’t find any VR simulators that say anything bad about the glorious and benevolent Chinese government.
Another option is that this is a different hardware platform too. Maybe it will have lower specifications or will be made for parts that are cheaper, but local to China. If there are any hardware components that are really only needed by the Daydream standard (which we don’t know the all the details of) they may be left out.
The only thing we do know is that the HMD will be based on the Snapdragon 835 platform. That’s a pretty beefy mobile chipset that’s features in high-end smartphones. This is one of the performance kings for 2017 and thanks to it’s 10nm design looks to be perfect for an HMD.
Because of that significantly smaller production process the Snapdragon improves battery life and supports a new version of Quickcharge (version 4). Most importantly it will push as many pixels as current mobile chips allow, so that’s obviously a good thing.
A New Age
Whatever this (for now) China-only HMD ends up being, it’s clear that VR has quickly moved on to an entirely new product category. With standalone AR systems quickly moving in to eat the lunch of VR products it couldn’t happen a moment too soon.