Google Cardboard is about to grow up. The Alphabet unit has made its do-it-yourself VR goggles ubiquitous, but now Google is building a standalone headset that doesn't require a smartphone, computer or additional device to power its features, according to unnamed sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal.
The device is expected to come with a number of features, such as a dedicated screen, powerful processors, cameras and motion-tracking chips. As for timing, it’s possible that Google could debut the headset later this year. But since it’s early in development, the project could be held from the public for longer.
That said, Google isn’t abandoning its budget-friendly Cardboard VR just yet. In addition to the standalone headset, it’s developing an upgraded version of the Cardboard headset that uses plastic material for its casing, improved lenses and sensors, according to the Financial Times. Like its current Cardboard models, the headset will use Android smartphones as the display and processor. It’s a take similar to Samsung’s Gear VR, except Google’s headset is expected to be compatible with more Android smartphones and not just Samsung Galaxy devices.
Google is also developing dedicated virtual reality software for its Android operating system, so users won’t have to rely on apps to experience virtual reality with their Android smartphones. Google hasn’t officially announced its upgraded smartphone VR headset or Android operating system. However, the two are expected to debut sometime in May, during the annual I/O developers conference, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Google’s renewed push into the virtual reality market comes as several technology companies are gearing up to launch their own products. HTC’s Vive headset is expected to ship in April, followed by Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset in July. Sony’s PlayStation VR is anticipated for later in 2016. Rumors also point to Apple assembling a secret research group focused on developing its own virtual reality technology.