As the recent Sundance Film Festival proved, the VR craze is just beginning, and competitive tech companies like Google are loathe to let a tech market go untapped.
Perhaps that’s why Google originally came out with Google Cardboard, a low-tech, affordable lens-fitted cardboard headset that could be used in addition to a smartphone with Google Cardboard VR capabilities.
The VR method was more cost effective than… actually effective, but it was enough of a hit to score Google an awesome deal with the New York Times, which provided Google Cardboard to its print subscribers for free so that they could watch a certain VR documentary.
Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, Google will be expanding its approach towards the virtual reality market, and its next product won’t be made of cardboard.
In fact, rumor has it that the device won’t rely on a PC or gaming console for processing power like many of its VR competitors (Sony’s PlayStation VR, HTC’s Vive and Oculus VR’s Rift come to mind), and instead it will have integrated processors, lenses, cameras and sensors. Despite this, it shouldn’t cost more than other mid-tier price-ranged competitors.
Movidius will make sure to manufacture the chips for the headset, which will enable the VR device to track the user’s head motion based on input from the product’s cameras.
For example, Google just moved company higher-up Clay Bavor from his role as rice president of product management to vice president of virtual reality. The switch constitutes reattributing the power of one of Google’s finest brains. It has also released an outcrop of job postings calling for talent to develop VR cameras and portable, battery-powered products.
Some analysts believe that Google may have used Cardboard to introduce virtual reality to 5 million people who otherwise wouldn’t have occupied the expensive VR niche. Now that that clientele is buttered up, they may be able to release a mid-price-range product to entice Cardboard users further down the rabbit hole.
VP of insights and analytics at EEDAR Patrick Walker believes that Google will have to take a significant step forward from the technologically limited Google cardboard:
“I would expect this next project to be an evolution of the Google Cardboard that will phase it out, especially because he price point of the Google VR headset will likely be relatively low but will offer so much more VR capability than the Google cardboard…From a price-point point of view, something in the mintier could sell a million or more units, while the higher-end stuff, despite the hype, might only sell tens of thousands of units, not a high volume, at this stage.”
Principal analyst at Tirias Research Kevin Crewel believes that a standalone Google VR headset would occupy a substantial gap in the realm of VR products.
“It’s a very good opportunity for something to fill in the gap… There’s a giant hole between the two experiences, and I’m surprised more companies haven’t done something in the price range between $300 and $600.”