Google has killed its virtual-reality headset project, according to unnamed sources speaking to Recode.
The headset would have competed directly against the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, two of the higher-end devices on the nascent virtual-reality market. More than 50 Google employees were reportedly working on the project.
Google’s interest in virtual reality is well documented. Earlier this year, the search-engine giant released ‘Daydream,’ a virtual-reality platform based on Android N, the latest edition of the popular mobile operating system. Assets related to Daydream include a reference design for a headset with a head-strap and a one-handed controller. The user slots a smartphone running Android N into the headset, and experiences the kinds of virtual worlds as seen in the image above.
Before Daydream, Google made an impact on the VR scene with the release of Google Cardboard, which took the concept of “cheap virtual reality” to its extreme. In contrast to platforms such as Oculus Rift, which incorporate expensive hardware with top-line software, Cardboard is literally a cardboard box with a pair of lenses inserted into it. Your smartphone, slipped into Cardboard’s aperture, acts as the “screen” for your virtual-reality experience.
Following up on Recode’s article, Engadget reported that, despite the death of this VR headset project, Google is still hard at work on a device that combines elements of virtual reality and augmented reality. In contrast to virtual reality, which totally immerses the user in a digital environment, augmented reality overlays holograms on the user’s surroundings.
If Engadget’s reporting proves accurate, Google is developing something that’ll compete more directly with Microsoft’s HoloLens than Facebook’s Oculus Rift.
Although Google has a mixed track record when it comes to headsets—despite heavy marketing, Google Glass failed to find a massive audience—the company can’t afford to sit out VR/AR if the technology becomes a mainstream hit. But that’s also good news for developers within Google’s ecosystem, who can profit by building VR apps.