On stage at Google I/O 2017, VR VP Clay Bavor announced the next step in Daydream's evolution. While using your phone to power a VR headset is convenient, and the experiences created there have been impressive, the next step will probably not be powered by your phone. Clay dubbed this evolution of Daydream "Standalone VR" and this is what we know about it so far!
Is this a new VR headset?
It was going to be several new VR headsets. Though Google announced partnerships with Lenovo and HTC for Daydream Standalone VR headsets, HTC has decided not to move forward, focusing instead on it's standalone VR headset on the Chinese market. From what we have seen each headset looks very different but promises to offer the same kind of experience. The big focus for these headsets lie in three key facets:
- Easy to carry around with you and use where you are.
- Completely self contained, with no external cables and no PC required.
- Precise head tracking through Google WorldSense
What do we know about the Lenovo Headset?
Currently very little. The FCC does have a filing with a name, The Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream, a rather cumbersome name but the addition of "with Daydream" suggests that maybe they are working on something else too. The FCC filing has the model number VR-1541F and does give us some small specification ideas, Bluetooth 5.0 and a 4,000mAh battery is pretty much the extent of what we know but it's something.
A 4,000mAh battery seems pretty large but when you are playing graphical intensive games, I'm not convinced it will be enough, and Bluetooth 5.0 should help conserve the battery a little more. Thats really all we know so far, we have a name and a few details but hopefully we'll know more in the coming months.
Google's trademark branding for its own form of inside-out tracking. Basically, it means the headset has sensors that allow your movement to be tracked as you move around in any direction. This is technically referred to as Six Degrees of Freedom, or 6DOF, and it's what will allow you to lean into a VR experience and really feel immersed.
This isn't a unique concept. Microsoft calls this experience World Scale in its upcoming Windows Mixed Reality products, and Oculus has also been testing inside-out tracking on its prototype headset code named Santa Cruz. What makes Google's efforts unique is a software system for detecting surface edges as you walk around large spaces, using technology from Google's Tango AR platform.
If there's no phone, what will power these headsets?
For these first two headsets, there will be a standalone display driven by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and likely a large battery. Qualcomm has positioned the Snapdragon 835 as the ultimate mobile VR processor today, with developer kits designed to offer things like inside-out tracking and precise body movements.
This also means you can expect the graphics on these upcoming headsets to be generally comparable to what you can get on current Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR headsets. The biggest mystery with the internal specs are the kind of displays that will be used and how the controllers will work.
What about the Daydream Controller?
It's not going anywhere! The wireframe teasers Google shared for the two upcoming headsets had the familiar Daydream Controller shape right next to it. There's been no mention of changing the controller at all, but considering the new headsets are capable of 6DOF tracking, it's likely we'll see an updated Daydream Controller with hardware that also offers 6DOF tracking.
Is this better than the Daydream I have now?
While these new Daydream headsets will almost certainly allow you to play all of the current Daydream experiences, the big deal will be the new experiences that come next. The ability to walk around a virtual object, duck to dodge things, and kneel down to get closer to something on the virtual ground opens a whole new world of VR experiences.
Currently these are the kinds of things you only get to see when you use an HTC Vive or an Oculus Rift, but this enhanced form of tracking will be a big deal for mobile VR headsets. These standalone headsets won't be as capable as the desktop-based counterparts, but you can expect slightly better than what you can get in Daydream right now.
When will I able to buy one?
There are currently no dates listed for a purchase timeframe, but Google has made it clear these headsets are likely to be priced similarly to Desktop VR headsets without the added cost of a PC. That means there's a $300-500 price range we can expect, which is the current cost for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
Now that we have seen the Oculus Go price set at $199, the expectation of $300+ seems unlikely. Analyst speculation suggests the Lenovo headset will need to be in the $200 range, which makes sense as the graphical ability of this headset is comparable to the Go not the Rift or Vive. Generally speaking, if the headset will cost more then Oculus Go it will be up to Google to demonstrate that worth in functionality.
Previously, Google has made the headset available to select developers and then made the headset available to the public. If that timeline remains true this year, we'll probably get more information about these headsets Fall of this year.
Updated January 2, 2017: We'll be updating this page constantly with lots of information as we find it!