At its annual Google I/O developer conference, the company announced that it is working on expanding its Daydream virtual reality program to include a standalone headset. Qualcomm is currently working on a reference design, with HTC and Lenovo expected to produce the first consumer sets sometime this year.
Expanding The Dream
"We asked, how can we take the best parts of smartphone VR and create a kind of device with an even better experience," said Google's vice president of virtual reality, Clay Bavor.
Unlike the current models, the upcoming versions of the Daydream headsets will have "everything built right in: no cables, no phone, certainly no big PC."
Relying on a PC or smartphone does give the current incarnations of Daydream a lot more processing power, but it is limiting in terms of customization. By creating standalone headsets, Google and its manufacturing partners will be able to customize device's displays, optics, and sensors to work better with VR.
One of the key innovations of the standalone headset is a feature Google is calling WorldSense. Unlike the current headsets that require external cameras, Worldsense will use a series of built-in sensors to ensure that "your view in the virtual world matches that in the real world ... You feel like you're really there."
Google did not provide any details regarding the specifics of how this technology would work or any way to verify the accuracy its claims. That being said, the current models of Daydream are only able to detect the tilt of the user's head, so this is still an improvement even if it doesn't work quite as well as Google is promising.
Price And Release Date
Unsurprisingly, Google made no concrete announcements regarding the upcoming device's price or release date, but we aren't completely in the dark. A report published by Backchannel says the devices should be here later this year, which matches what we were told on stage. In terms of price, it was reported that the devices would be in the "the mid-hundreds range," which is comparable to the current versions of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
That being said, it would not be too surprising if these were priced a bit cheaper. After all, under Bavor's tenure, the company's VR division has professed a populist approach handling the new technology.
"Could we have built the mother of all headsets that cost $2,000 and was amazing?" asked Bavor. "Of course. We have those in the lab, but it didn't make sense to try and push the product."
As of right now, the details are scarce, but we should learn more in the coming weeks.