Google could be working on VR headset to rival Oculus Rift

Several high-profile recruitments -- including Jason Toff of Vine/Twitter -- and a series of recent job ads for engineers and managers specialized in Virtual Reality (VR), suggest that search engine giant Google is working on a new VR project.

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This could take the form of a much more advanced handset than the firm's current Cardboard VR viewer.

Google has offered smartphone users a low-cost VR headset since 2014, in the form of the Cardboard viewer. This is a build-it-yourself cardboard kit into which users slot a handset running the YouTube application. This time around, it looks like Google could be playing catch-up with VR solutions from Oculus (Facebook), Samsung, HTC and Sony.

A hologram headset?

Google could, in fact, be working on a project using the advanced holographic technology developed by Magic Leap, a start-up that the Mountain View giant supports and finances. Magic Leap has filed a patent application for a portable device (a headset or glasses) compatible with this kind of 3D imagery for games and professional applications. This could make Google a key competitor for Microsoft, which demoed its own holographic HoloLens device in 2015, allowing wearers to move around a world filled with holograms and interact with them. With Google also working on a new pair of connected glasses (Project Aura), it's difficult to imagine what type of device the patent concerns, unless, of course, the two projects end up fusing into one.

Microsoft's HoloLens will be available in the first half of 2016 for $3,000 per headset for developers looking to create games and applications that make use of the new technology.

Other models of VR headset are lined up for release this year, starting with the Oculus Rift. This much-talked-of headset immerses gamers in 360-degree action and is available to preorder for $599 (€699 in Europe) to anyone with a compatible PC with enough processing power to handle it. The first models are expected to ship in the spring. Around the same time, the HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR are expected to land, although pricing is yet to be announced.

According to research from Deloitte, as many as 2.5 million VR headsets could be sold in 2016, whether to the general public or to businesses.


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