Google is upgrading Daydream in a big way.
On stage at Google I/O today, 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’s actually several new VR headsets. Google announced partnerships with Lenovo and HTC for Daydream Standalone VR headsets that look very different but promise 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
Google’s trandemark 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.
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 doge 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.
When will I able to buy one?
There are currently no dates listed for a purchase timeframe. 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.