Ahah! Some very positive news out of the Google I/O conference. Partnered with companies like HTC and Lenovo, new stand-alone mobile virtual reality devices are expected to be released towards the end of 2017. More than this, unlike the current cream of the crop mobile options like the Samsung Gear VR or Google’s own Daydream VR smartphone combos, these new stand-alone VR products will be mobile solutions that feature positional tracking; the same type of tracking that captures every nuance of how the user is moving his/her head. Will positional controllers follow? We think that’s a safe bet.
A stand-alone VR device means that all the processing power is embedded in the HMD itself, and it’s not necessary to be connected to a PC or combined with a smartphone to make the experience possible. The HMDs will likely (hopefully) be affordable, and will benefit from a big convenience factor. Another advantage is that by being a stand-alone device, these new HMDs qualify as a platform where content makers have reasonable confidence in the spec and know that all the devices will have comparable performance and behaviour.
Here’s the catch…and a potential solution. The catch is that mobile is mobile, and the processing power is likely at least 10 years apart from the top graphics experience we enjoy on PC. Since performance capabilities are a moving target on both platforms, the two sides never meet. What this means is that while the VR experience could be impressive (and we are confident it will be), if they are using a mobile or smartphone class GPU, the result will be generations apart from what PC and console have to offer.
Now here’s the conspiracy theory potential solution. We are now entering a phase of wireless HMDs. How big a leap is it for the wireless output of a PC’s display signal and tracking signals to be linked to a mobile HMD device? Now that the smartphone is no longer a hindrance, it’s just a display with choice electronics, right? Factoring in that HTC and Lenovo are each well seated in the PC space, is it in their power to kill two birds with one stone? Think of the potential of a personal HMD device that seamlessly switches from one platform to the next. One HMD that offers you a choice of mobile or PC back-end; each with their own OS and platform. Google gets mobile, PC gets Windows with related store fronts.
We’re not privy to any secret sauces or anything; this just seems like an obvious opportunity. If not for this first generation, maybe the next.