MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—The first standalone virtual reality headsets based on Google’s Daydream design go on sale later this year, Google announced at its I/O developers conference here on Wednesday.
The new headsets, from HTC and Lenovo, will come with the built-in positional tracking that smartphone-based models currently lack, and Google promised simplicity: just pick them up and put them on.
Qualcomm and Intel have been working on their own reference designs for standalone headsets. Intel teased its Project Alloy set last year, and Qualcomm showed off a model based on the Snapdragon 835 processor at CES in January. The Snapdragon 835 platform apparently impressed Google, and the standalone Daydream headsets will feature Qualcomm processors alongside Google’s own tracking technology, which is also found in the Tango augmented reality smartphone platform, first seen on the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro.
In the race to broaden virtual reality’s appeal beyond hardcore video gamers, it is standalone designs that recently emerged as frontrunners, because they can deliver immersive VR experiences complete with motion tracking without being attached to a high-end gaming PC or laptop.
Google’s current VR headset, the $79 Daydream View, is one of several affordable sets on the market that rely on smartphones to function. It went on sale last fall and competes against the second-generation Samsung Gear VR, a collaboration between the Korean tech giant and Facebook-owned Oculus.