Google is reportedly building a second-gen Cardboard VR headset to rival Samsung's Gear VR. That's according to the Financial Times' sources in San Francisco who said that the new headset will have a solid plastic casing, like third party Cardboard viewers, as well as additional sensors and better lenses.
The big difference between this upcoming Google headset and Samsung's Gear VR accessory, of course, will be that a Google headset should work with most, if not all, Android smartphones. The Gear VR is restricted to recent Samsung phones like the Galaxy S6 Edge and the Galaxy S6.
The Google headset, which will launch this year, could arrive at Google's I/O event in May. The quality of mobile VR should be improved, too, by new embedded software in Android itself - as pick up and play Cardboard can be, the lag and low quality can sometimes make it a less comfortable experience.
Cardboard is viewed, at least in the industry, as something of a happy accident. After just 19 months, Google has shipped 5 million Cardboard units and the 1,000+ apps available for the platform have been downloaded 25 million times.
What's next? YouTube is tipped to be bringing live 360 degree videos to its service and Google has recently appointed Clay Bavor as its first head of VR. It was also recently recruiting for a hardware engineering technical lead manager in VR products, suggesting that it will build Cardboard v2 in-house as a Nexus-style, low cost reference device.
Samsung, on the other hand, already has a great $99 device in the consumer Gear VR that comes with impressive Oculus software and Samsung's own collaborations. A Samsung Gear 360 camera is also reportedly in the works and handheld Gear VR controllers could arrive by the end of 2016. The one problem, as ever, is that if you factor in buying a new Samsung phone, the price shoots up.
CCS Insight predicts that 20 million VR headsets will ship in 2018 and 90% of these will use smartphones for its display and most, if not all, the processing power. If we see a refined Cardboard headset in May, we'd bet the majority of these will be straight from Google.