The long-rumoured new mobile VR HMD from Google was MIA at the I/O developer conference this week, but the company has at least now confirmed it’s coming.
Google’s VP of Virtual Reality, Clay Bavor, confirmed as much towards the end of the ‘VR at Google’ talk on the conference’s second day. Wrapping up a roughly 30 minute section in which the company detailed partnerships with Epic Games and Unity, Bavor simply confirmed that, yes, the company would make its own HMD to support its new Daydream mobile VR platform, and produce one of the Daydream motion controllers that it’s announced this week. No other details have been announced at this time, making this quite the tease.
Rumours about this kit have suggested that it will be entirely standalone, not requiring a smartphone to run and instead housing its display and processor inside. That obviously remains a rumour for now, but it would make the headset unique, as others will be powered by ‘Daydream Ready’ smartphones that meet a specific set of specs outlined in the talk. Google’s take on the Daydream controller will also be built from its own reference design, but it’s not clear if it will differ in any way from the one that’s been shown at I/O this week.
As for when we’ll see this new kit? That’s anyone’s guess. Bavor didn’t give a timeline for this HMD specifically, though did note that devices in general will start rolling out towards the end of the year, just like the phones that support Daydream. Perhaps we can hope to see it in the rumoured November launch window, though we suspect we might have seen the kit in the flesh this week if Google was to be rolling it out in six months from now.
Whatever form Google’s HMD takes, though, don’t expect it to spell the end for Google Cardboard, the low-end initiative that it started up two years ago now. The performance and quality gap between that platform and the Daydream one will likely be considerable, as will the price. As such, Cardboard seemingly remains unthreatened in its position as an ultra-affordable, low barrier entry into the world of VR, and no doubt still the HMD of choice for many brands to show off content at events.
That said, it could be a serious contender to Gear VR’s mobile throne, and yet creator Samsung itself is a Daydream partner. How odd.