Google has made surprise announcement at its I/O developer conference , and it could be a game changer for virtual reality.
During a keynote presentation at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai unveiled a new version of the popular HTC Vive headset , running Google’s virtual reality software, Daydream.
First unveiled at the same event last year , Daydream is Google’s virtual reality operating system, which provides a platform for VR apps in the same way that Android provides a platform for mobile apps.
While details about the new HTC Vive headset are scant, Pichai said it is wireless and designed to work as a standalone device, meaning it doesn’t rely on a smartphone or PC for power.
This represents a dramatic departure from the original HTC Vive, which has to be plugged into an extremely powerful – and expensive – PC, in order to work.
However, it’s also unlike other wireless virtual reality headsets, such as the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View, which are essentially dumb headsets, with a smartphone slot at the front.
These headsets rely on the smartphone to carry out all of the data and graphics processing, whereas the new HTC Vive does everything itself.
Unlike the Playstation VR, which is aimed squarely at gamers, the new HTC Vive is intended as a general-purpose virtual reality headset.
“From storytellers and manufacturers to doctors and teachers, VR is impacting every part of society and sparking imagination like never before,” said HTC in a blog post.
“More information on Vive’s standalone VR headset will be made available soon, but rest assured it will be simple, easy-to-use and with no cables to connect. Just pick it up, put it on and be fully immersed in your new reality.”
The new HTC Vive won’t be the only VR headset to run Google’s Daydream software – the company is reportedly planning to support a range of standalone headsets.
However the Vive already has a headstart over its rivals – having built a reputation as a leader in virtual reality over the past year – and the portability of the new headset, together with the removal of the requirement for an expensive computer, will undoubtedly help bring virtual reality into the mainstream.