At Google I/O 2017, Google announced it was working with HTC and Lenovo on standalone VR headsets, as it begins to expand its Daydream project.
Right now, Google's only VR device that is currently is its Daydream View headset, but that relies on a smartphone to power it. Google has revealed that its Daydream platform is now going to support a second class of VR headset, standalone VR devices that won't require a smartphone or PC to run. And Google will be partnering up with third-party manufacturers to make them.
Read this: The best Daydream apps and games
So far Google's confirmed that it will launch new headsets, teasing us with some sketches - but they're still works in progress. We don't know much about Lenovo's offering, but HTC has let slip a few bits about its standalone virtual reality headset.
Here's what we know about HTC Vive Daydream so far.
What it will look like
Right now we don't even know the official name of HTC's Daydream system, but we wouldn't be surprised to see it carry the Vive name. As for what it will look like, we got a tease in the form of the silhouette above, but so far that's all we've seen. Beyond perhaps the PS VR, none of the headsets on the market are mind-bogglingly gorgeous, but who really cares when it's strapped over your eyes anyway?
As we're looking at a halfway house between smartphone VR and the top-tier systems, we expect it to be a little heavier than Daydream View - remember it has to pack all of the tech inside. But comfort will be priority, especially with the additional movement afforded by not having any wires.
Total freedom of movement
The headsets will use inside-out tracking called 'world sense', powered by Google's Tango technology, which will give it total freedom of movement. This means you won't need the basestations that give the Vive its room-scale, and should, in theory, be totally unrestricted. HTC has proven itself in this department with the HTC Vive, so expectations are high.
The headset will run Daydream's platform - so no SteamVR games - as Vive's general manager Daniel O'Brien recently confirmed to Wareable. "We're building it with the Vive brand and the Vive ecosystem and the same mentality," he said, "but it's a Daydream product from a runtime and a software backend and store [perspective]."
Moreover, in a press release released at the time of announcement, HTC said the headset "will be simple, easy-to-use and with no cables to connect. Just pick it up, put it on and be fully immersed in your new reality."
Clay Bavor, Google's VP of virtual and augmented reality said in an essay on Medium, "Daydream standalone VR headsets, which we just announced at Google I/O, are a step in the right direction. They have everything you need for VR built in. Getting into VR is as easy as picking them up. But we're hardly done streamlining the user experience."
We don't know much more on the guts, but it will be based Qualcomm's 835 VR platform, which we saw demonstrated in its reference headset earlier this year.
HTC isn't the only one moving into the standalone space. Last year we got a demo of the Oculus Rift Santa Cruz, a prototype of Oculus VR's wire-free, smartphone-free headset. That also uses an inside-out tracking system for full freedom of movement, however its development timeline is less clear.
As mentioned, Lenovo is also working on a system, which is technically competition too, even though it will also be running the Daydream platform. While we're seeing lower-end offerings from the likes of Pico, there isn't yet anyone offering really good VR without the cables - unless you want to get yourself a wireless adapter for the HTC Vive.
Release date and price
There's not a lot else to go on right now, but Google's Clay Bavor promised we'll see the new headsets later this year. As for price, that's also yet to be announced, but according to word from Backchannel we should expect something in the mid-hundreds dollar range. That would put it close to the Rift and the Vive, but of course you won't need the PC to go with it - so it will still work out less expensive overall.
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