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article imageGoogle unveils standalone VR headsets – no smartphone needed

By James Walker     May 18, 2017 in Technology
Google has announced a new range of "standalone" virtual reality headsets that operate independently of a smartphone. The company said the devices will help to create a new category of VR experience with a simplified setup procedure.
Existing virtual reality initiatives require the headset to be physically connected to its host device. For desktop solutions, this takes the form of a cable to a computer. In mobile VR, the smartphone is directly attached to the headset.
This makes the headset heavier and less comfortable to wear and also prevents you using VR if your phone isn't around. At its I/O developers conference yesterday, Google unveiled a new approach to virtual reality that cuts the cord and paves the way to standalone headsets.
The technology is called WorldSense and is based on an expanded form of Google's existing Daydream platform. WorldSense headsets come with self-contained software, including everything they need to operate without a phone or PC. You can get started by mounting the display on your head and loading an app.
HTC Vive standalone VR headset
HTC Vive standalone VR headset
WorldSense includes support for full positional tracking, allowing your movements in the real world to be accurately represented in the digital space. As with a growing number of next-generation VR headsets, WorldSense's tracking doesn't require calibration with external sensors on the walls or floor. This further increases the ease of use of the platform.
Only one standalone headset has been created so far. Google worked with processor maker Qualcomm and VR headset pioneer HTC to develop a customised version of the HTC Vive. The Daydream-powered device will launch later this year. Lenovo is also working on its own device for launch by the end of 2017, giving Google two high-profile launches in the near term.
During I/O, Google also discussed its plans for augmented reality and its Project Tango technology. Tango was used in the creation of WorldSense and it also backs Google's new Visual Positioning Service (VPS). VPS is a system that lets devices work out their precise location indoors. It's meant to be an indoor alternative to GPS and is currently being trialled in select Lowe's stores and museums.
HTC Vive standalone VR headset
HTC Vive standalone VR headset
Google stressed its continued commitment to developing augmented and virtual reality technologies. It suggested their advent will break down the barriers between the real and digital worlds, enabling greater efficiency in day-to-day tasks.
"VR can transport you. With It, you don't just get to see a place, you can experience what it's like to be there. And AR brings computing into your world, letting you interact with digital information in your environment," the company said. "Both technologies enable us to experience computing more like we experience the real world – they make computing work more like we do."
WorldSense and VPS will remain in development throughout the year as Google refines the new systems. Virtual and augmented reality represented a substantial portion of the company's I/O keynote yesterday, indicating the importance Google places on their long-term evolution.
More about Google, Virtual reality, augmented reality, project tango, worldsense
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