Earlier this year, a report claimed that Google was working on its own standalone virtual reality headset, meaning that it wouldn’t require your phone to work. Now it appears as though that project has been canned.
That’s the gist of a report from Recode’s Mark Bergen, who talked with sources close to Google that wished to remain anonymous.
According to the report, Google’s VR strategy was two-pronged. One direction is Daydream, the mobile-centric platform and reference design Google announced at I/O. The first Daydream headsets are expected to be launched this fall; they will be compatible with Daydream-ready smartphones from manufacturers including Samsung, HTC, Alcatel, Asus, Huawei, Xiaomi, LG and ZTE. The first Daydream-ready phone is the ZTE Axon 7, coming at the end of this month.
This standalone VR headset was reportedly meant to compete against the likes of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, two high-end VR headsets currently on the market. Google is said to have had 50 employees working on the project, which allegedly ran an operating system different from Android.
But Daydream is essentially Cardboard evolved. Daydream-based headsets are still just shells that require a smartphone for brainpower and the all-important display. That’s great for scaling up quickly, but not so great when it comes to what you can actually do with it.
Google has been involved in VR for a while now with its ultra-affordable Cardboard headsets, but the company has been working to expand its presence recently. It showed off Daydream at I/O in May, which uses your smartphone, controllers, and apps to offer a higher-quality experience than Cardboard. Apparently Google wants to focus on Daydream, which is likely within reach of more consumers than high-end offerings like Vive or Rift that require beefy PCs to function.
It’s not clear why Google nixed the project or how far along the development was. But the report seems unequivocal in saying that Google is now putting all of its chips on mobile VR. It’s possible that Google found that it’s not worth to pour resources into a new VR platform at this point. After all, the VR ecosystem is far from settled and consumer demand for VR is still nascent. Launching a standalone VR unit would also force Google to rely on a competitor’s platform, as the headset would presumably work with a PC, just like the Rift and the Vive. It’s also possible that the standalone VR project was just an exploration and Google was never fully invested in the concept.