The world of virtual reality is full of many names. If you follow the technology, you’re probably familiar with the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and so on and so forth. Just when we thought that the virtual reality world couldn’t get any more competitive, tech-giant Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) enters the fray. It has been reported that Google is currently developing a virtual reality headset. Their bid? A headset that does not require any additional hardware to function.
More Than Cardboard
At this point, pretty much everyone has heard about Google Cardboard. Released in 2014, the Google Cardboard made waves as one of the most accessible virtual reality viewers available. The Google Cardboard is incredibly simple — a bunch of folded cardboard with lenses inside. You put your smartphone, download a Cardboard-compatible app, and experience the wonders of virtual reality. Most viewers can be purchased online for around $20. With the Cardboard, Google was able to break into the virtual reality market.
However, the Google Cardboard is simple, and many consider it to be a novelty at best. For starters, the Cardboard was limited by the hardware limitations of the average smartphone. Although they’ve come a long way, most smartphones are not very powerful by computing standards. The accelerometer and the gyroscope in a smartphone aren’t able to track user movement, either. This means that most Cardboard apps consist of the user standing and just looking around. They’re not able to respond to movement like walking or hand gestures.
This new virtual reality headset will be much more powerful and more immersive than the Google Cardboard. Whereas the Cardboard could be considered more of an augmented reality experience than a virtual reality experience, this new headset promises to bring a more pure overall experience.
What’s Special About It?
As I mentioned before, the world of virtual reality hardware is growing more and more crowded by the day. The Samsung Gear is essentially a souped up Google Cardboard, offering similar functionality and at a comparably low price. Headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are being championed by Valve and Sony, respectively. Aside from being made by Google, what makes this new headset any different from the others?
Hardware. Or rather, lack thereof. Google reports that their headset will be able to function on its own, without the use of hardware like smartphones, consoles, or personal computers. This is great news. Just as the Google Cardboard was hindered by its hardware, other more powerful headsets are equally bogged down by their beefy tech requirements. For many, purchasing an Oculus Rift is out of the question. Not only would you have to purchase the headset itself, but you would have to have a computer powerful enough (read: super powerful) to use it. Google’s new headset promises to be free of these limitations.
Granted, this portability will come at a slight cost. Google’s headset probably won’t be quite as powerful as the Rift or the Vive. However, it will offer unprecedented power for its convenience and portability. Google says that they want to offer a middle-ground experience with their new headset. They want to make something a step above the Gear, but a step below the Rift, and continue to make virtual reality platforms more accessible to the masses.
Where to Buy Google Cardboard?
Google has remained coy on the release date. Some people are suggesting that the headset could be done by the end of the year. Others think that, as a product so early in development, it’s possible that the headset could be scrapped entirely. For anyone interested in partaking in a Google virtual reality experience, you may have to settle for the Cardboard for now. Rest assured, though. Google has always had a lot on its plate, but it’s become readily apparent that they’re interested in putting more skin in the virtual reality game.