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WSJ: Google developing standalone VR headset (no phone or PC required)

ashecitism

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Jun 29, 2013
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http://www.wsj.com/articles/google-developing-stand-alone-virtual-reality-headset-1455218948

The Alphabet Inc. unit is developing an all-in-one virtual-reality headset that doesn’t rely on a smartphone, computer or game console, according to people familiar with the matter. That would be a first in the rapidly evolving field.

Google also plans to release later this year a more advanced version of its $20 cardboard virtual-reality viewer that uses a smartphone as a screen, people familiar with the matter said. The new plastic viewer will include computer chips and sensors, these people said.

Google’s planned stand-alone headset appears to aim for a middle ground: a quality experience not tethered to an expensive PC or game console. Still, it is unclear whether many consumers are willing to pony up for another entertainment gadget.

One of the people familiar with the matter said the headset will include a screen, high-powered processors and outward-facing cameras. Google plans to use chips from startup Movidius Inc. that use the cameras’ feeds to track the motion of the user’s head, the person said. Other high-end headsets, like the Oculus Rift, tap the computing power of connected PCs and use external cameras to track users’ motion.

The timing of the stand-alone headset is unclear. One of the people familiar with the matter said it could be unveiled this year, while two others cautioned that it is early in development and Google could decide not to release it.

As for the improved Cardboard, GearVR competitor: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b33d75fe-cc5a-11e5-be0b-b7ece4e953a0.html

Google is developing a new virtual-reality headset for smartphones, and adding extra support for the technology to its Android operating system, as it challenges Facebook's Oculus for an early lead in Silicon Valley’s latest platform war.

The new headset will be a successor to Cardboard. the cheap-and-cheerful mobile VR viewer that Google launched in 2014, and feature better sensors, lenses and a more solid plastic casing, said people familiar with its plans. The smartphone-based device will be similar to the Gear VR, a collaboration between Samsung and Oculus that went on sale to consumers late last year.

Google is expected to release its rival headset, alongside new Android VR technology, this year. Like Cardboard and Gear VR, the new headset will use an existing smartphone, slotted into the device, for its display and most of its processing power.
 

PdotMichael

Banned
Feb 9, 2011
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I'm not really sure how a standalone VR can be cheaper than a VR device which requires a PC.

Though some budget/mid tier devices would be nice.
 

BD1

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Nov 27, 2011
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Stand alone units are the natural evolution of the platform; the arms race for this tech is moving at warp speed.
 

Somnid

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Aug 9, 2006
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I think focusing less on premium and more on convenience is a good strategy. People almost universally prefer the latter.
 

CengizMan

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Jan 13, 2013
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Isn't this just the Magic Leap? They're going to show it off during this year's TED. They made a massive investment into that.
 
Sep 23, 2004
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I'm not really sure how a standalone VR can be cheaper than a VR device which requires a PC.

Though some budget/mid tier devices would be nice.

I'm sure that a Note 4/Gear VR or Galaxy S6/GearVR setup is much cheaper than a Oculus Rift/PC setup


It would be nice if Google were able to find a solution to being compatible with PC VR software and all of the Android VR as well.
 

Crayon

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Jan 6, 2007
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Highly interested in this. PSVR is my fave, atm but this could displace vive as my second. A self-contained unit from google is a very interesting proposition.
 

Kyzer

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Jan 7, 2009
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Makes sense. Having to have all these expensive things to do thing is gonna put a lot of people off. Google must be figuring if y'all aren't gonna do it we will do it ourselves
 
Aug 24, 2009
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I think focusing less on premium and more on convenience is a good strategy. People almost universally prefer the latter.

Convenience comes at a premium with VR. You need a certain amount of fidelity, a certain framerate, a certain weight distribution and maximum weight limit, a certain texture to the headset around the nasal region. All those things add up to a premium experience.
 

Peltz

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Apr 26, 2014
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It's either going to be expensive as hell or not as good as something with separate dedicated processing hardware.

(I'm probably just stating the obvious though).
 

D4Danger

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Dec 5, 2008
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I'm not really sure how a standalone VR can be cheaper than a VR device which requires a PC.

Though some budget/mid tier devices would be nice.

I assume they'd just be buying the component parts of something like a Gear VR and Galaxy phone and putting them together. You could easily get that below $400.
 

Sulik2

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Apr 17, 2012
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Unless you are wearing a backpack computer, I not exactly sure you can get enough power in something you have to wear on your head to do VR justice.
 

PdotMichael

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Feb 9, 2011
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540
I'm sure that a Note 4/Gear VR or Galaxy S6/GearVR setup is much cheaper than a Oculus Rift/PC setup

Relative to the performance you get. I'm pretty sure it isn't.

That Galaxy S6 goes for $500-600 without contract - you get a quite powerful upper-class PC for it.
You just need a VR system that doesn't require a top end computer like Oculus Rift.
 

Sir TapTap

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I posted this on Twitter just yesterday; why the heck doesn't Google just pack in a Cardboard set with each phone they sell, at least from Google Play? Would be great to drive adoption.

Seems a bit odd to make a full on-standalone headset for them with Android devices so common and Cardboard pretty successful for a literal cardboard hack and a couple lenses.
 

Somnid

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Aug 9, 2006
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Convenience comes at a premium with VR. You need a certain amount of fidelity, a certain framerate, a certain weight distribution and maximum weight limit, a certain texture to the headset around the nasal region. All those things add up to a premium experience.

It's probably not as high as people think. People had very positive reactions to the Oculus DK1 which makes me think the current stuff is being over-developed as a product. I think there's room for a Gameboy when everyone else is make TurboExpress and Game Gears.

GPS and mobile network triangulation?

Movidius makes computer vision chips used for positional tracking. Lookup project Tango.
 

Astral/H3X

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Aug 17, 2012
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If it ends up being like a standalone Gear VR type of deal, with some kind of room scale tracking, that would be pretty sweet. I'm fine with the processing power of the GearVR, but it's really the tracking that sucks.

Would be great as a "Here's a taste of VR" if it can get Lighthouse esque tracking and controllers.
 

M3d10n

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Aug 28, 2006
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I assume they'd just be buying the component parts of something like a Gear VR and Galaxy phone and putting them together. You could easily get that below $400.

There's also more room to spread the components around compared to the Gear VR, making heat dissipation easier.

The biggest challenge is self-contained positional tracking. It makes all the difference and is lacking in all mobile VR solutions so far.
 

MaulerX

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Jan 8, 2012
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So they're following Microsoft's Hololens into the untethered space. Except this is VR and not AR. This is exactly what will eventually get these things into more homes.
 

3rdamention

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Oct 27, 2006
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About a month ago, I was selected to beta test google's new education VR Experiance called Google Exhibitions. I tried it out for an hour with 30 of my 6th Grade School Students. Let me put it this way, we WANT google heavily involved with this. They are already doing great things, especially for non gaming applications.



From a tablet, I was able to take my students on the surface of Mars. I was able to touch specific marked points on Mars, and when I did, it put an arrow on all 30 of my students' VR Screens. They would follow the arrow to the point I had selected, which was circled in yellow on their VR Screens.


"Do you know what that black spot is?" My students took guesses "Is that where the Mars Rover landed?" a student responded! "Yes" I replied, then went on to read facts about the Mars Rover landing, which were displayed on my tablet, while students were looking at the exact spot on their VR googles.



We then went down to the Great Barrier Reef, and up on Mt. Everest. I was able to point out some very interesting aspects of each area, share fun facts and statistics, while they are immersed in the world in VR.



They had several dozen "Exhibitions" available for us to try, but those were the 3 that I did with my students. This is the kind of stuff that is really going to help the adoption rate of VR. Non gaming and educational experiences that can go beyond gamers, but into the laps of schools and the general public. My students thought it was amazing and when we returned on Monday, two students bought Viewmaster VR Goggles over the weekend since we used a few of those in our Beta Test.
 

Sky Chief

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May 7, 2011
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I'm confident that this will be pretty great if less capable. YouTube VR is amazing quality and requires very low hardware. For example, the IQ and texture quality for the prerendered Apollo 11 VR experience in YouTube is much higher than in the Apollo 11 DK2 demo. This obviously would not be as good for very interactive VR experiences but I think you would be surprised how much could work really well on a low powered device.
 

mrklaw

MrArseFace
Jun 10, 2004
59,891
2
0
Windsor, UK
I assume they'd just be buying the component parts of something like a Gear VR and Galaxy phone and putting them together. You could easily get that below $400.

This would be my guess. A gear VR equivalent without a separate phone. Using android.


I guess the new cardboard also has improved sensors which then send data via BT to the host phone, like gear VR. That sounds interesting too. Hope they make it iPhone compatible
 

inner-G

Banned
Jul 28, 2007
17,369
1
0
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If this were tied to deferred rendering on a server instead of a local machine, with the headset just being a receiver, it could be infinitely scalable
 

HStallion

Now what's the next step in your master plan?
Nov 23, 2015
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My question is will this have a battery or will it still have a cord plugging it into the wall.
 
Aug 12, 2015
472
0
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Try again google, it already been done!

 

cleveridea

Member
Mar 7, 2005
5,257
1
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About a month ago, I was selected to beta test google's new education VR Experiance called Google Exhibitions. I tried it out for an hour with 30 of my 6th Grade School Students. Let me put it this way, we WANT google heavily involved with this. They are already doing great things, especially for non gaming applications.



From a tablet, I was able to take my students on the surface of Mars. I was able to touch specific marked points on Mars, and when I did, it put an arrow on all 30 of my students' VR Screens. They would follow the arrow to the point I had selected, which was circled in yellow on their VR Screens.


"Do you know what that black spot is?" My students took guesses "Is that where the Mars Rover landed?" a student responded! "Yes" I replied, then went on to read facts about the Mars Rover landing, which were displayed on my tablet, while students were looking at the exact spot on their VR googles.



We then went down to the Great Barrier Reef, and up on Mt. Everest. I was able to point out some very interesting aspects of each area, share fun facts and statistics, while they are immersed in the world in VR.



They had several dozen "Exhibitions" available for us to try, but those were the 3 that I did with my students. This is the kind of stuff that is really going to help the adoption rate of VR. Non gaming and educational experiences that can go beyond gamers, but into the laps of schools and the general public. My students thought it was amazing and when we returned on Monday, two students bought Viewmaster VR Goggles over the weekend since we used a few of those in our Beta Test.

Yeah this + youtube support for VR content + google's worldwide initiatives (like the balloons) mean that they are looking long term, and global (eg USA being a very small percent of the world population)

They probably also are concerned with facebook getting involved, since thats the only company I think they consider a serious competitor (as long as Apple persues a premium price strategy)
 

HStallion

Now what's the next step in your master plan?
Nov 23, 2015
31,114
138
475
New Jersey
It wouldn't make sense to not have a battery. The point of being standalone is that you get freedom to move.

That's my fear though is that its got a battery and then it doesn't last long, not that I think I'd be doing 6 hour VR sessions but still.
 
Sep 23, 2004
14,342
3
1,550
Relative to the performance you get. I'm pretty sure it isn't.

That Galaxy S6 goes for $500-600 without contract - you get a quite powerful upper-class PC for it.
You just need a VR system that doesn't require a top end computer like Oculus Rift.

Granted I'm not too sure about price/performance ratio, but with a 500-600 S6 and a $100 Gear VR, you have a complete VR system that has already been available to the average consumer roughly a year.

It's also quite a bit more accessible than the PC VR ecosystems, which is a benefit and gives an incredible value that is very understated.

If Google can make a self-contained unit, it'll probably have mobile internals, a half decent battery, and Google could probably push to make it available this year not too far after the Vive/Rift/Gear 2 launch in April.