Google’s New Virtual Reality Headset Will Be Wireless, Won’t Require Smartphone Or PC Tether

Google's contribution to the virtual reality market so far has been a blueprint for a low-cost viewer that users can can construct at home out of cardboard and a few other parts. It's a thumbing of the nose to the high priced competition—Oculus Rift sells for $599, and you need a relatively powerful PC to run it—but it's not Google's only play. The Mountain View company is said to be cooking up a second generation viewer, one that's much more sophisticated than a cardboard contraption.

Earlier in the week, it was rumored that Google's next generation VR headset would feature a plastic chassis and support a wide range of Android smartphones—essentially its own version of Samsung's Gear VR headset, but capable of working with a greater number of devices. Now it's being reported that Google's next headset will be a wireless unit that operates entirely on its own.

Google Cardboard

Citing "people familiar with the matter," The Wall Street Journal says it will be an all-in-one headset that doesn't need a smartphone or PC to power the VR experience. It will have a built-in display, faster processors, and outward-facing cameras with accompanying chips from Movidius, a startup that's focused on image and signal processing technologies.

If Google can pull this off and do it at a reasonable price point, it could be huge. Both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive require a fairly powerful PC to power the experience, and Sony's working on a VR headset for its PlayStation 4 console. For someone who doesn't already own a capable PC or PS4, buying into the VR experience on one of those platforms is going to be costly.

At the same time, one of the risks for Google is entering what's quickly becoming a cluttered market on the verge of a platform war. Remember when HD-DVD and Blu-ray duked it out? It's going to be like that, only instead of two viable options there's going to be a handful.

The good news for Google, assuming a somewhat favorable cost of entry, is that price sometimes rules the day. As chintzy as its Cardboard viewer is, there are now 5 million of them out in the wild, a figure made even more impressive by that fact that the viewer only works with select Galaxy handsets.