Just ahead of Google’s I/O developer conference last year rumors ran rampant that the company would show a standalone VR headset. The truth was actually something very different, but those murmurs have returned again just ahead of this year’s show.
Variety is citing multiple sources with knowledge of the project in saying that Google may showcase its standalone device at this week’s show, which kicks off today and runs through to Friday. The headset is expected to use an inside-out tracking system similar to that which can be seen in Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10 headsets, which are made with partners. Those systems are still tethered to PCs, though, and this device is expected to be completely standalone, with all the processing power on-board.
We have a lot of questions about this rumored device, perhaps the most pressing being what it means for the company’s Daydream mobile VR ecosystem, which it revealed at last year’s I/O and launched last November. It’s entirely possible that such a device would support the company’s new ecosystem, meaning it could launch with a suite of games and apps already availble, but it raises questions about where Daydream’s 3 degrees of freedom (3DOF) controller fits into the plan. A 6DOF headset wouldn’t mash well with a 3DOF controller.
If true, it could be that the inside-out tracking is achieved with Google’s Tango platform, which consists of depth-sensing tech that can map rooms in 3D.
We’d also love to know about availability. Intel expects to have standalone VR headsets on sale this year using its reference design, Qualcomm is making a reference design too, and Facebook’s Oculus is still at work on its Santa Cruz project. These devices will likely be expensive due to the combination of VR and processing power. Just how viable will they be for consumers?
This is also complete speculation on our part, but there’s the question of who’s really making this headset too. Pixel, the phone Google released last year with Daydream support, was actually manufactured by HTC. We can’t help but wonder if, with reports that HTC itself is looking at mobile VR, the two have paired up again to work on this device. Again, though, that’s entirely speculation for now.
We’ll just have to see what Google has in store this week. We’ll be at I/O to bring you all the latest. The show’s keynote kicks off at 10am PT today.