Google is moving beyond Cardboard.
The company will reportedly be announcing a standalone Android VR headset at next week’s Google I/O event. Tech journalist Peter Rojas has tweeted that Google will launch an untethered Android VR headset next week according to his multiple sources.
Rojas noted that his sources had confirmed that the headset will be “less powerful than the Vive or Rift,” which given its standalone mobile nature is no surprise. The high-powered PC graphics cards needed to run the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive setups cost at least $300ish by comparison and are quite bulky.
The price point is the critical note for Google to hit here. Cardboard has worked so well because all consumers have needed to do is slot their smartphone into a $15 cardboard headset and immediately dive into the experience. With a standalone product, Google will have to build something that moves past the power of high-end smartphones and delivers superior optics but is priced aggressively.
Samsung has gotten an early advantage in the mobile VR space with the Gear VR, but it has done so by selling the headset (which requires a compatible Galaxy or Note device) at only $99. Samsung had over one million people on the Gear VR platform last month, undoubtedly the fruits of Samsung and select carriers giving the headset away for free with S7 pre-orders.
Google has spent much of its VR efforts over the past two years enticing developers to produce simple VR content. Cardboard as a gateway drug to VR has proven quite successful for Google though there’s still a long way to go in garnering the interests of content creators. Over 5 million Cardboard-compatible VR headsets have already shipped.
TechCrunch will be reporting from Google I/O next week in Mountain View to see what’s next for Google in the virtual reality space. With rumors of tighter VR integration within Android N, it’s likely that I/O will see a host of VR-related announcements.