Google’s VR headset for smartphones: what’s it all about?

Not too long ago, virtual reality seemed like a distant dream for smartphone developers. That was until Samsung teamed up with VR pioneers Oculus, now owned by Facebook, to bring us the Gear VR in 2015. Now, Google is working on a new virtual reality headset for smartphones to rival Samsung’s attempt and surpass its tongue-in-cheek Cardboard headset.

So, what’s new with Google’s VR Headset?

Launched in 2014, Google Cardboard is a cheap and simple take on virtual reality, which (like its name suggests) uses folded cardboard to let you step into the VR world with your smartphone. The new headset will be a major step-up from this effort and promises to feature better sensors, improved lenses and a solid plastic casing. What won’t change, however, is its compatibility with existing smartphones. The idea is you slot your smartphone into the device and use that as the headset’s display, as well as its main power source.

Google Cardboard

What will Google’s VR Headset do?

Google’s new VR headset will be compatible with a much wider range of Android devices than Samsung’s Gear VR, as this is Google’s main operating system. Currently, the Gear VR only works with a small number of Samsung Galaxy smartphones, which gives Google’s headset an immediate advantage. Google is looking to surpass the quality of existing VR viewing by embedding software directly into its Android devices, rather than relying on an app. This could solve the current lag problem that faces many mobile VR viewers, who often feel unwell because the images fall behind their real-time head movements.

Google Cardboard isn’t all bad, though…

Despite its simplicity, Google Cardboard has been much more successful than anticipated, having shifted more than 5 million units to date. Its compatibility with a variety of smartphones is a major selling point, as it uses an open-source design that means any manufacturer can produce working apps for it. By improving virtual reality lag for smartphones and enhancing Android software, the Google VR headset should allow developers to make more advanced apps for viewers to enjoy.

Google have their sights set on mass-market appeal with their new virtual reality headset, creating an affordable device that will expand the possibilities of mobile VR. With Oculus focusing more on the gaming side of virtual reality with their Oculus Rift, now is the perfect time for Google to make their move. When this revolutionary device will actually be available to buy, however, is still unknown.