The current state of virtual reality isn’t elegant. There are headsets like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google Cardboard that require a smartphone. Then there are the beefier VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which connect to an expensive PC, and the PlayStation VR, which connects to a PlayStation 4.
A new report from the Wall Street Journal says Google is developing a VR headset that is entirely self-contained and doesn’t need a smartphone, computer or a game console to work — it’s reportedly a true all-in-one device that would simplify the VR experience.
The Journal’s report follows another from the Financial Times that claimed Google’s VR headset will be a competitor to the Gear VR.
According to the Journal, the Google VR headset will “aim for the middle ground: a quality experience not tethered to an expensive PC or game console.” The report’s sources say the headset will have a screen, high-performance processors made by Movidius and outward-facing cameras. The processors will reportedly “use the cameras’ feeds to track the motion of the user’s head.”
The report also corroborates the FT’s news that Google is upgrading Android to work better with VR headsets. “One change would allow a phone to stay on even when it hasn’t been touched for a while,” the report says.
There’s no word on when Google will announce its VR headset, but it could happen at the company’s annual I/O developer conference in May.
It’s also worth pondering how much this kind of VR headset would cost. Samsung currently sells its latest Gear VR for $99, but that device is limited to a few Samsung smartphones, which you have to buy separately. The Oculus Rift costs $600, but you’ll need to have a powerful PC in order to run it properly; a complete Oculus VR and PC setup will cost around $1,500.
Regardless, it’s clear Google is getting really serious about VR. If Cardboard was a mere hobby to gauge interest in VR, a standalone headset could be a sign that VR really will be the next major computing battleground.