Google and Qualcomm have teamed up to bring us standalone Daydream VR headsets in 2017. Manufacturers are expected to launch the first lot of virtual reality viewers in the coming months, which offer full freedom of motion without the need for cables, external sensors and other irritants. And one of the first to do so is HTC with an all-new Vive headset.
Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 chipset is already delivering seriously impressive performance in some of the latest premium smartphones, including the Sony Xperia XZ Premium and HTC's new U11 handset. However, one of the more intriguing benefits of the Snapdragon 835 is its impressive mobile VR chops.
Phones packing this chipset can potentially offer next-gen mobile VR experiences. This includes full freedom of movement inside virtual reality worlds as well as super-smart hand tracking so you can interact with imaginary objects. In other words, you can expect the kind of killer games and experiences currently offered by the likes of the HTC Vive, with none of the annoying cables, sensors and space restrictions.
Some of the upcoming Snapdragon devices will work nicely with Google's existing Daydream View headset, so you can play Daydream VR games and enjoy immersive experiences. However, Google and Qualcomm have also collaborated to design a standalone Daydream headset reference, for viewers which operate completely independently of mobile phones.
This announcement, made at Google I/O 2017, should make it easy for manufacturers to launch their own standalone VR headsets later this year.
Read next: All you need to know about Google Daydream
Upcoming Daydream viewers using this design reference will be powered by the Snapdragon 835 and will operate just like Google's existing View headset. Without the need to slot in a phone, of course, as a high-res screen will be built into the helmet itself.
That's good news if you recently splashed out on a new handset that doesn't support Google's Daydream VR platform, and you want to see what all the fuss is about. After all, very few mobiles currently support Daydream. Outside of the Google Pixel phones, the only other easily-found compatible devices are the Moto Z and Moto Z Force; at least, for now.
Keith Kressin, senior vice president of product management at Qualcomm, said of this collaboration with Google: “Our companies share the same vision: to make it possible for everyone to enjoy rich and immersive VR experiences on a smartphone device or a dedicated VR head-mounted display while being fully mobile.”
Clay Bavor, vice president of virtual reality at Google, revealed that these standalone mobile VR headsets will feature WorldSense tech for positional tracking out of the box. In other words, the helmets will be able to monitor your movements and translate these to motions within the virtual environment. You can also expect the new viewers to feature external cameras that can track your hands, so you can pick up and manipulate any items in front of you. Hmm, we reckon the VR porn industry will be all over that one.
Google revealed that the first Snapdragon 835 VR headsets will hit shelves later in 2017, so we won't have long to wait. HTC has already announced that it will do a mobile VR version of its popular Vive headset, which should prove much more affordable than the standard device. Not to mention easy to use.
We don't have official word on when this new Vive will arrive, but we're expecting it in Q3 or Q4. Stay tuned for more info.