Google and HTC are making a standalone VR headset together based on the Daydream platform.
Google's already made a prototype of the headset, while HTC is readying the consumer version that should be available by the end of the year. In an essay on Medium, Clay Bavor, Google's VP of VR and AR, said this upcoming headset will have "everything you need for VR built in" - meaning no phone or cables required - and that getting into VR will be as easy as picking it up. OK, we'll bite.
Here's everything you need to know about this headset, including all the latest details and rumours.
- Google I/O 2017: All the announcements that matter
- Google Daydream: What does it do and what devices support it?
- Standalone Daydream VR is now a reality, HTC and Lenovo onboard
- Google Daydream: Google's Android VR platform explained
What is Daydream?
Google's Daydream platform is meant to simplify access to VR content.
There's three aspects: If manufacturers want to make Daydream-ready phones that work with Daydream VR headsets, the phones must meet an optimal specification list; if manufacturers wants to make Daydream VR headsets, they can create their own designs that meet Google's standards; Daydream phones and VR headsets must provide access to the upcoming Daydream Home VR content hub.
Keep in mind Google already makes its own Daydream-ready phones as well as a Daydream VR headset, in the form of last year's Pixel phones and the Daydream View, respectively. But it still allows manufacturers to develop and sell Daydream-ready phones and VR headsets. You can learn more about Google's Daydream View from here, and you can learn more about the Daydream platform from here.
HTC's Daydream headset: What's the story?
Daydream has so far been an experience that has run on your smartphone, but now, it's making the jump into a standalone headset. While at the Google I/O 2017 developers conference, Google announced it is working with HTC and Lenovo on the first standalone Daydream VR devices. HTC also produces the Vive VR headset, while Lenovo has worked heavily on Google's Tango efforts.
Google said these upcoming standalone Daydream VR headsets will support inside-out tracking. They will track virtual space using Google “WorldSense" technology, something that's powered by its Tango augmented reality system. Google said it's creating a reference design with help from Qualcomm, and it’s also partnered with HTC and Lenovo to manufacture the standalone headsets.
WorldSense ensures that objects in the real world don't become an issue when you're moving in the virtual one. Motion is tracked by the headset, and you get six degrees of freedom, thanks again to WorldSense.
Google and HTC have only only revealed an outline of the headset alongside a Daydream-like controller. A prototype version was seen by Backchannel and described as clunky, though it apparently offers a better experience than the Gear VR or Daydream VR. A rendering system called Seurat enables it to have high performance with low power and greatly optimised 3D graphics.
This prototype and its tracking system means Google plans to take on Oculus, which has also teased early standalone headsets with self-contained tracking systems. It also reminds us of Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Headset development kits with inside-out tracking.
Portable VR experience
HTC revealed in a blog post that it is "perfectly positioned to deliver the most premium standalone headset and user experience" and that the Vive standalone VR headset will provide a "deeper and more immersive portable VR experience than ever before". It also promised to announce more information on the headset soon, but said it will be "simple, easy-to-use and with no cables to connect".
You should be able to just pick it up, put it on, and be fully immersed in your new reality, according to HTC.
HTC's Daydream headset: What's it called?
Thanks to LetsGoDigital, we know the headset could be called the HTC Vive Focus. It's confusing that the company decided to use the same Vive brand that it uses for other headsets. But the Vive Focus will be a fully PC and smartphone-free system and it will be based on Daydream's platform. HTC has registered trademarks with the EUIPO and USPTO on 8 September.
The Verge has also reported that a standalone VR system is heading to China that will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 to power the experience. Because of Chinese government rules a Daydream system powered by Google's Play store isn't ideal because the platform isn't always available. But it seems logical to conclude that this is the same system that HTC will soon announce for Europe and the US.
HTC's Daydream headset: When will it be available?
Release date and price
There was no release date or price announced on stage, though Google said HTC's standalone Daydream VR headset will arrive later in 2017. Backchannel said that Google has developed a prototype and that HTC will release a commercial version “in the coming months.” It should cost somewhere in the "mid-hundreds range". The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are in the $600 to $700 range.
Is this different from HTC Vive 2?
HTC Vive 2/Oasis headset
Yes. HTC introduced the HTC Vive VR headset in 2015, and by late 2016, the company was rumoured to be working on a second-generation version, codenamed Oasis. According to @LlabTooFeR, who has leaked accurately in the past, HTC was developing a refreshed version in November 2016, though it was unclear at the time if that would be a standalone headset or just a slimmer, lighter version.
Non-Daydream standalone VR headset
In July 2017, HTC officially announced a second standalone Vive VR headset. Like the model it is creating with Google, the second Vive headset will not require a separate smartphone or PC to run. However, instead of using the Google Daydream VR platform, it will utilise HTC's own Viveport for content. The new headset is being made in conjunction with Qualcomm and will run on a Snapdragon 835.
HTC's announcement was made at ChinaJoy 2017, where the HTC Vive team also called upon developers to create new content. The headset is destined for a Chinese release. It will not head to the US or UK, as the western world will be getting the similarly designed HTC Vive Focus instead. Because of Chinese government rules, a Daydream system powered by Google's Play store won't work.
We don't believe the HTC Vive 2/Oasis headset is the HTC Vive Focus or the non-Daydream standalone VR headset headed to China.
Anything else you should now?
'New virtual reality toy'
Now that we've delved into what Google announced at Google I/O 2017, it's important to note that HTC revealed in early 2017 that it was making a mobile VR headset. At the time, it was described as something different than Google Daydream View and similar headsets. According to CNET, which spoke to Chief Financial Officer Chia-lin Chang, HTC developed a VR product compatible with the U Ultra:
“We have a good plan in terms of combining mobility with VR,” Chang said. “Vive is very top end, and in the coming months you'll see our plans in terms of mobility and VR, and it's not a phone slapped onto a headset ... It'd be a different thing.”
HTC already sells the HTC Vive headset, which is a lot like the Oculus Rift in that it needs to be tethered to a PC, though it also offers an add-on that turns the headset into a standalone device, but now, it's apparently developing something altogether different. The company specified that it wouldn't work like Google's Daydream View, which uses a phone for its screen, sensors, and processing power.
CNET itself labeled the upcoming device as a "new virtual reality toy", while Chang was a bit more vague. He did suggest, however, that it was a device that'll sit somewhere between the full-fledge Oculus Rift headset and a mobile VR headset like Daydream View.