Google to Release a New VR Headset This Year, Says Report

By on February 8, 2016 | 1:08 pm
February 8, 2016 | 1:08 pm
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Google Cardboard VR headset
February 8, 2016 | 1:08 pm

This year, the virtual reality (VR) market is absolutely going to explode as several major companies are set to launch their headsets after much anticipation. These include (Facebook owned) Oculus VR, which will debut the consumer model of the Oculus Rift, Sony which will debut the PlayStation VR (formerly Project Morpheus) headset, and games publisher (and owner of digital gaming platform Steam) Valve, which has teamed up with HTC for the HTC Vive. According to estimates, the virtual reality industry is set to generate $5.1 billion this year alone, which is especially high given that core gaming fans rather than casual consumers are set to adopt the tech this early.

This figure, and the fact that so many other companies are getting involved, is perhaps why Google is set to release another virtual reality headset of its own this year. According to a report from the Financial Times, this new headset will be a success to Google’s existing VR headset for smartphones, Google Cardboard. However, “people familiar with [Google’s] plans” told FT that we can expect some noted improvements with this new headset such as “better sensors, lenses and a more solid plastic casing.”

The report also explains that this update Google VR headset “will be compatible with a much broader range of Android devices” than Samsung and Oculus VR’s headset, Gear VR, as that only works with some Samsung Galaxy smartphones. Google hopes to make VR available to more Android users, which would also explain why the company will debut technology called ‘Android VR’, which will be “embedded” within its massively popular Android operating system instead of relying on an app to provide the VR tech as is currently the case with Google Cardboard. FT also says that this will support Google’s hopes of improving the quality of the VR viewing experience.

Unsurprisingly, Google won’t comment confirming these alleged VR plans, but as mentioned, it seems unlikely that the company would pass up the chance to bank on VR’s burgeoning popularity.  Google Cardboard has already been a hit too, having sold around 5 million units since its release in 2014, so it stands to reason that Google would release a follow up, hoping to strike gold twice.

Moreover, recent comments from Google executives also seem to hint and more VR projects from the company. Last month, FT notes, Clay Bavor (the head of Google’s Cardboard/related products division) told Time magazine that “VR is too important and too powerful a medium to be accessible to only a few.” Meanwhile, Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive recently revealed that Google Cardboard is the “first step” in the company’s VR plans, and that “beyond these early efforts, you’ll see a lot more from us and our partners in 2016.” While those statements from Bavor and Pichai aren’t exactly concrete confirmations that the new headset will be on shelves this year, we should at least be on the lookout for more teasers and announcements from the company soon.

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