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article imageReport: Google to release its own virtual reality headset in 2016

By James Walker     Feb 8, 2016 in Technology
Google has a team building its own virtual reality headset to rival devices like the Samsung Gear VR, according to a report today. The company is aiming to launch the headset later this year, stepping up the race to virtual reality.
Citing people "familiar" with Google's plans, the Financial Times reports that the headset is designed to be used in conjunction with a smartphone in a similar way to the Samsung Gear VR. It will be powered by a new specially developed version of Android, Android VR, and will be ready to go on sale later this year.
Users will insert their phone into a slot on the headset. Android VR will launch, using the smartphone's display and components to load the virtual reality interface. The user will then pick an app or game to launch, becoming immersed in the experience with their movements measured using dedicated motion sensors. This is similar to how the Samsung Gear VR operates but Google intends to differentiate its headset with a few key features.
By integrating VR directly into the core of Android, the company hopes to increase the headset's performance and make the experience feel more fluid. Gear VR's content runs within the wrapper of an Android app, restricting its frame rate. Android may choose to cut off resources to the app, leaving it lagging behind and inducing motion blur.
With virtual reality at the heart of the operating system, VR content will be guaranteed the processor time it needs to maintain a smooth frame rate. This will help with the nausea and dizziness that VR experiences often trigger, something Michael Thomas noted in Digital Journal's recent review of the Samsung Gear VR.
Google's implementation of the tech will have another advantage. Again thanks to its deep integration with Android, the headset will be compatible with a much larger selection of phones, making VR more accessible and giving more people a chance to try out the technology. The Gear VR is only compatible with four different Samsung phones, all of them pricey premium handsets from the past year.
The Financial Times asked Google to comment on its plans but the company refused. Last week, CEO Sundar Pichai told investors after parent company Alphabet's earnings call to expect "a lot more from us" in 2016 with regards to virtual reality.
Google already has one VR product, Google Cardboard. The project allows people to build their own VR headsets for use with smartphone games and apps out of nothing more than a sheet of cardboard. The new device will be a much more sophisticated offering designed to compete commercially with the likes of Facebook and Samsung.
Google is likely to unveil the headset in May at its I/O developer conference, alongside Android "N" to provide the required Android VR component. The Financial Times writes that it is "likely" the project will follow the same timetable as Google's Nexus phones, implying it could go on sale in September.
More about Google, Virtual reality, Vr, samsung gear vr, Android
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