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article imageGoogle cancels Oculus Rift competitor to work on mixed reality

By James Walker     Jul 18, 2016 in Technology
Google is building a high-end mixed reality headset that will combine elements of virtual and augmented reality systems for an immersive experience that extends into the real world. The device is separate to Google's rumoured Oculus Rift competitor.
Uncited sources told Engadget that Google's X development lab has been secretly assigning people to the project over the past few months. Around 50 employees are said to be building the headset at the moment. The dedicated device will merge virtual and augmented reality together for a true mixed reality experience.
The finished device will operate completely independently of a phone or computer. Its standalone nature will leave it untethered, allowing the wearer freedom of movement and the ability to use the headset without connecting it to other devices.
Google is said to be basing the feature set on augmented reality systems. It wants to create a device with a wide range of possible applications, rather than the gaming-focused nature of current virtual reality headsets. It remains unclear whether Google is building new technology to power the system or using the assets it has acquired from Magic Leap, a startup aiming to create mixed reality images that Google has invested in.
Engadget's report was published a day after Recode revealed Google has cancelled its plans to launch a high-end standalone virtual reality headset to rival the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The company is said to be "streamlining" its various experimental projects. It is moving its VR development efforts to focus on mobile and smartphone experiences instead of PC gaming.
While one project has been cancelled, Google is continuing to work on its other "high-end" headset. By concentrating on a more open field than pure gaming, Google can give itself more leeway to create something innovative and disruptive. Mixed reality isn't being explored as much as segregated virtual and augmented reality, allowing Google to gain its own area of emerging headset tech to specialise in.
Recode's sources said the company has not yet decided on a release date for the system. It is an "important part" of Google's plans for the future though, confirming the company sees virtual reality as an essential component of its business over the next few years.
Earlier this year, Google unveiled Android Daydream, a virtual reality platform that is integrated directly into Android 7.0. It will launch later this year and give app developers a native approach to build VR experiences on smartphones, allowing for more immersive content.
While the shuttering of Google's Oculus Rift competitor and the presence of Android Daydream may suggest the company is emphasising mobile, the existence of Google's secretive project in its X labs reveals it is still working on something standalone. With VR and AR being tipped as the next frontiers of technology and entertainment, Google wants to ensure it's at the forefront of innovation in this field.
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