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May 20, 2017

HTC Vive standalone Daydream headset: What’s the story so far?

by John_A

Google and HTC are making a standalone VR headset together based on the Daydream platform.

Google’s already made a prototype of the headset, while HTC is readying the consumer version that should be available by the end of the year. In an essay on Medium, Clay Bavor, Google’s VP of VR and AR, said this upcoming headset will have “everything you need for VR built in” – including no phone or cables – and that getting into VR will be as easy as picking it up. OK, we’ll bite. They’ve piqued our interest.

Here’s everything you need to know about this headset, including all the latest details and rumours.

  • Google I/O 2017: All the announcements that matter
  • Google Daydream: What does it do and what devices support it?
  • Standalone Daydream VR is now a reality, HTC and Lenovo onboard
  • Google Daydream: Google’s Android VR platform explained

What is Daydream?

Google’s Daydream simplifies access to VR content on a mobile device.

There’s three aspects: An optimal specification list that manufacturers must meet for a smartphone to be labelled Daydream-ready; a Google-made Daydream View VR headset, although multiple manufacturers could also build their own designs (as long as they meet Google’s standards); and an all-in-one hub for VR content called Daydream Home. You can learn more about Daydream from Pocket-lint’s guide.

HTC

HTC Daydream headset: What’s the story?

Partnership announcement

Daydream has so far been an experience that has run on your smartphone, but now, it’s making the jump into a standalone headset. While at the Google I/O 2017 developers conference, Google announced it is working with HTC and Lenovo on the first standalone Daydream VR devices. HTC also produces the Vive VR headset, while Lenovo has worked heavily on Google’s Tango efforts.

Inside-out tracking

Google said these upcoming standalone Daydream VR headsets will support inside-out tracking. They will track virtual space using Google “WorldSense” technology, something that’s powered by its Tango augmented reality system. Google said it’s creating a reference design with help from Qualcomm, and it’s also partnered with HTC and Lenovo to manufacture the standalone headsets.

Design

Google and HTC have only only revealed an outline of the headset alongside a Daydream-like controller. A prototype version was seen by Backchannel and described as clunky, though it apparently offers a better experience than the Gear VR or Daydream VR. A rendering system called Seurat enables it to have high performance with low power and greatly optimised 3D graphics.

This prototype and its tracking system means Google plans to take on Oculus, which has also teased early standalone headsets with self-contained tracking systems. It also reminds us of Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Headset development kits with inside-out tracking.

New #Daydream standalone headsets from partners like @htcvive won’t require a phone or PC. #io17 pic.twitter.com/7TpYPJGEdU

— Google (@Google) May 17, 2017

Portable VR experience

HTC revealed in a blog post that it is “perfectly positioned to deliver the most premium standalone headset and user experience” and that the Vive standalone VR headset will provide a “deeper and more immersive portable VR experience than ever before”. It also promised to announce more information on the headset soon, but said it will be “simple, easy-to-use and with no cables to connect”.

You should be able to just pick it up, put it on, and be fully immersed in your new reality, according to HTC.

Release date and price

There was no release date or price announced on stage, though Google said HTC’s standalone Daydream VR headset will arrive later in 2017. Backchannel said that Google has developed a prototype and that HTC will release a commercial version “in the coming months.” It should cost somewhere in the “mid-hundreds range”. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are in the $600 to $700 range.

HTC

Is this different from HTC Vive 2 Oasis?

Most likely. HTC introduced the HTC Vive VR headset in 2015 and started selling it last year, and by late 2016, the company was rumoured to be working on a second-generation version, codenamed Oasis. According to @LlabTooFeR, who has leaked accurately in the past, HTC was developing a refreshed version in November, though it was unclear if the new Vive would be standalone or just a slimmer, lighter version.

Anything else you should now?

  • HTC is making a mobile VR headset unlike anything we’ve seen so far

Now that we’ve delved into what Google announced at Google I/O 2017, it’s important to note that HTC revealed in early 2017 that it was making a mobile VR headset. At the time, it was described as something different than Google Daydream View and similar headsets. According to CNET, which spoke to Chief Financial Officer Chia-lin Chang, HTC developed a VR product compatible with the U Ultra:

“We have a good plan in terms of combining mobility with VR,” Chang said. “Vive is very top end, and in the coming months you’ll see our plans in terms of mobility and VR, and it’s not a phone slapped onto a headset … It’d be a different thing.”

HTC already sells the HTC Vive headset, which is a lot like the Oculus Rift in that it needs to be tethered to a PC, though it also offers an add-on that turns the headset into a standalone device, but now it’s apparently developing something altogether different. The company specified that it wouldn’t work like Google’s Daydream View, which use a phone for its screen, sensors, and processing power.

CNET itself labeled the upcoming device as a “new virtual reality toy”, while Chang was a bit more vague. He did suggest, however, that it was a device that’ll sit somewhere between the full-fledge Oculus Rift headset and a mobile VR headset like Daydream View.

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