Google is working on a stand-alone headset that will marry augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), according to a report from Engadget.
Recode reported July 15 that Google had stopped working on a stand-alone virtual reality headset along the lines of Oculus Rift, in an effort to “streamline its more ambitious projects.”
The shuttered project was reportedly born inside the X research lab (now a part of Alphabet), based on an independent OS and had approximately 50 dedicated employees. Now, it’s believed that Google is focusing all its efforts on an Android-based project.
In May, during its I/O keynote, Google introduced Daydream, a VR platform built on Android and used in concert with robust new phones with specific sensors and displays, a headset and a controller. Compatible phones will be able to access VR Mode, software features baked into Android.
Daydream, an upgraded version of Cardboard, “brings your favorite apps to virtual reality,” explains the Daydream home page, showing off Netflix, MLB.com, YouTube, HBONow, nytvr (from The New York Times), Google Street View and Google Maps.
Samsung, HTC, Huawei, LG, Xiaomi, Asus, Alcatel and ZTE have all committed to making Daydream-capable phones.
ZTE recently introduced the Axon 7—a value phone for those who don’t want to pay the premium price for a Samsung handset. The phone launched in China May 26 and will arrive in the United States in the coming months, priced below $500.
While Daydream is a serious and considerable effort for Google, it’s only a “stepping stone” toward a “grander hardware push,” Engadget reported, citing unnamed sources.
AR Meets VR
Google will have plenty of company in the AR/VR space. It has already invested, along with Alibaba, Warner Bros., Qualcomm and others, in the Florida-based Magic Leap.
Magic Leap says it will “enable you to seamlessly combine and experience your digital and physical lives.” But not until its product passes “The Mom Rule.”
There’s also Hololens, Microsoft’s play to compete with Google, which seeks to blend users’ digital worlds and real worlds. Or, as Microsoft explains in a teaser video, “This is the world with holograms. … Because when you change the way you see the world, you can change the world you see.”
Venture capital (VC) firm Rothenberg Ventures has also funded nearly a dozen players in the AR/VR space, including Emergent, 8i and Matterport, for business uses across a number of industries, such as engineering and real estate.
In April 2015, Digi-Capital forecast AR/VR revenue to reach $120 billion by 2020. In January, it revised that to $90 billion. Wild cards like Magic Leap could upend its predictions, it acknowledges.
Perhaps so could the stunning, near-overnight success of Pokemon Go. While Unity Technologies, the company that made the game engine, had previously raised $25.5 million from investors, on July 13, Barry Schuler, a partner at VC firm DFJ Growth, shared that DFJ had just lead Unity’s $181 million Series C funding.
“I suspect Pokemon Go is good for AR in a general sense, in that it’s one of the first mainstream AR applications, but at the same time, it’s entirely smartphone-based and, therefore, isn’t necessary a boon for those pursuing AR with dedicated headsets,” Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, told eWEEK.
“I do think that AR and mixed reality have a lot of potential in general,” Dawson added, “because they allow people to keep one foot in the real world while exploring an alternative reality, which is how a lot of people will want to experience things like VR.”