Rumor: Google to launch Android VR headset at Google I/O

There’s a rumor going around that Google is going to throw its hat into the VR headset ring. The Android news site Android Police has spied something that lends credence to the rumor. The Google Play Developer Console has added an entry for Android VR in its Pricing and Distribution settings.

We've been hearing murmurs of a Google entry into the VR space as far back as February of this year, when Android Police reported on a rumor that the purported Android VR would stake out a middle ground between PC-tethered headsets and Samsung's $100 Gear VR. Tech investor Peter Rojas revived those rumors yesterday on Twitter. He claims that Android VR not only exists, but it'll also be announced next week at the Google I/O conference. He also said that Android VR would be "better than Gear VR, not as good as the Rift/Vive," which lines up with what Android Police reported in February.

Google's current contribution to VR hardware, Google Cardboard, was introduced at Google I/O several years ago. This could indicate that Google considers I/O to be the best venue for this kind of announcement. Android Police also points out that the Google I/O schedule is chock full of VR events.

If this rumor proves true, it would mean that the casual VR scene could see some options beyond Samsung's Gear VR. While the Gear VR is only $100, it requires a recent Samsung smartphone to operate, which might be a deal-breaker for some folks. The February report from Android Police speculated that Android VR wouldn't be tied to a smartphone at all, much less a particular brand. Samsung's partnership with Oculus for the Gear VR makes it a formidable opponent, though. We'll just have to see whether an Android VR device of some kind surfaces next week.

Comments closed
    • sweatshopking
    • 4 years ago

    MEH. VR STILL LOOKS LIKE A GIMMICK TO ME.

      • biffzinker
      • 4 years ago

      Agreed, reminds me of the Wiimote for the Wii even though the Wiimote later had a gyroscope incorporated for true motion detection.

      • Laykun
      • 4 years ago

      I mean, it’s a 3D TV on your face, and they were just a fad. Also, the 90’s.

    • tipoo
    • 4 years ago

    Has anyone made a more full fledged game that uses a controller for Cardboard? I see a lot of VR demos for it, not a lot of meat.

    Even remaking some older games like Nova 3 or Infinity Blade 3 for a controller and VR would be neat.

      • Chrispy_
      • 4 years ago

      Nothing substantial – no “meat” as you say – for the exact reason I’ve already commented about above.

      If a phone has drifted enough to make any experience unusable within a few short minutes you’re not going to be able to make any progress into a game before having to stop and reset the orientation somehow. This totally kills the immersion, obviously, but it’s also a complete PITA that nobody wants to interrupt (or abort) their gaming session for.

        • tipoo
        • 4 years ago

        I also just learned that for certification, Google requires cardboard partners to not have a strap or use a controller…Wat….That pretty severely hampers any Cardboard VR gaming efforts, and limits it to cutsey demos. And actually they posed the no strap limit exactly for why you said – phones sensors aren’t good enough to not drift, so holding it to your face makes you turn slower.

        So the current crop of phone VR is really just the short demo stage until sensors get better.

    • Chrispy_
    • 4 years ago

    I’d love it if Google had a solution to positional drift that all phone-based VR setups suffer from. That has to be the #1 complaint Google had with feedback from Cardboard, and I can confirm the problem exists no matter what phone you use (HTC, Samsung – via GearVR, LG, Motorola and Huawei are the ones I’ve tried so far).

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      As a complete VR neophyte, may I ask what positional drift is?\

      [Edit: Many thanks for the answers. I can see how that can be an issue. Sounds like something that inertial guidance systems (gyros) in phones can’t handle right now.]

        • tipoo
        • 4 years ago

        Good VR tracks your head position. Phones don’t yet have depth sensors, so they approximate where your head is with accelerometers etc. So they can “drift” from the proper position.

        Think, Wii remote recalibration sort of thing, before Motion+

        • Freon
        • 4 years ago

        As you look around in the headset and finally return to to the same position and direction you don’t actually end up in looking in the same precise direction as before inside the virtual world even if you are looking in precisely the same direction in the real world.

        They’re essentially doing dead-reckoning with the built-in accelerometers (taking the force from the accelerometer and back calculating/integrating displacement in 3D space), and it simply isn’t accurate enough. Small errors in the accelerometer precision add up over time.

        This is why the Vive and Rift rely on fixed position cameras outside of the headset to track position and keep a relative footing in the world outside the HMD. Even if there is some drift, the camera which is still anchored in real 3D space can correct for drift as it happens.

        • Chrispy_
        • 4 years ago

        Nevermind, two other people already answered.

        Gyro drift is so bad on phones that even in the best-case scenario you can be 90 degrees out in any axis within a few minutes. This means that smartphoneVR is only of value for short demos that reset the position every couple of minutes or less.

        • siberx
        • 4 years ago

        Chrispy_ is referring to one of two effects that stem from the same root cause; unlike a dedicated VR headset like an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, VR as implemented in a phone does not have any external fixed reference points and relies only on internal intertial sensors for tracking the headset’s movement.

        This means two things: Firstly, that you can only properly track rotation (not translation – so you physically moving your head up/down/left/right causes drift relative to your expectations) and secondly that you have no ability to correct for accumulating error over time in your measurements (causing drift over time)

    • tay
    • 4 years ago

    So a generic Android VR that works with a certain subset of phones?

      • Wonders
      • 4 years ago

      [quote<]The February report from Android Police speculated that Android VR wouldn't be tied to a smartphone at all, much less a particular brand.[/quote<]

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