It is no secret that virtual reality will form a core part of Google’s annual developer conference next week, but alongside sessions dedicated to creating VR experiences, the company is set to launch its first dedicated VR headset that will take on Samsung’s Gear VR, Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive.
Google has long been rumored to be working on a VR headset, but according to tech journalist Peter Rojas, the headset will be unveiled at Google I/O, which kicks off next Wednesday, May 18. Rojas claimed the new headset will be less powerful than the Vive and Rift, though considering both of these devices need powerful PCs to operate, this is unsurprising. He also says it will be more powerful than Samsung's Gear VR.
Android VR will definitely be announced next week, and from what I’ve heard will be less powerful than the Vive or Rift.
— Peter Rojas (@peterrojas) May 11, 2016
The Google VR headset won’t be tethered to a PC or smartphone, according to Kyle Russell, a partner at venture capital fund Andressen Horowitz specializing in VR, meaning it is likely more comparable to Samsung’s Gear VR. The $99 headset, which utilizes smartphone screen and processor to create a VR experience, was used by more than one million people last month, according to a blog post published by Oculus on Wednesday, indicating just how popular the device is getting.
An earlier report from the Financial Times claimed Google was working on a standalone VR headset but one which would not be ready for launch until later in the year. While Samsung’s Gear VR has proven popular, it remains limited in capability and only those who own one of Samsung’s expensive flagship devices can use it.
Samsung is also reported to be working on a standalone VR headset, which wouldn’t require users to use their smartphones. According to a report from Variety last month, Samsung is looking to incorporate features such as positional tracking as well as hand and gesture tracking — though these features could be some years away.
At Google I/O next week, the search giant is making no secret of the fact that it is pushing virtual reality in a big way, with an entire content track at the conference dedicated to VR, with seven sessions dedicated to virtual or augmented reality, including one called “VR at Google,” which promises to discuss “what we have built, what we have learned, and where we are headed.”
Google ’s current VR offering is limited to its Cardboard headset and a standalone VR app. However, the company is expected to announce significantly deeper integration with VR as part of its latest operating system update, called Android N, which will be officially unveiled at the conference next week.