Google is expected to unveil an Android-based virtual reality (VR) headset at the Google I/O conference next week.
The move would mark a step up in the firm's VR ambitions, as it currently focuses on pushing the cheap and cheerful Cardboard VR headset that acts more as a taster for the potential of VR.
A full-blown VR headset from Google would see the firm compete against the likes of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, although the rumours suggest that it may be more on a par with the lower-specced Gear VR from Samsung.
The rumours come in the same week that Google made its Cardboard VR headset available in the UK for just £15 or £25 for two.
Google Cardboard is, as the name suggests, a simple rectangular device with two magnifying lenses. Users then slip a smartphone with the Cardboard app into the folded part to power the VR experience and track head movements.
It’s the most basic way to experience VR, but it’s a decent way to get a first taste of VR.
"Bring virtual reality to life with Google Cardboard. Using your smartphone and VR apps, this quality viewer puts the world of VR right in your hands, affordably," is how Google spins it.
Google has also made Cardboard headsets available in Canada, Germany and France at similar prices.
The company has other, more unusual, VR goggles, such as the Google Tech C1-Glass VR Viewer (pictured below). But it doesn’t appear that these will be made available outside the US just yet.
But that’s not too big a deal as Cardboard is a fairly decent way to give VR a spin for the first time.
There are more advanced VR headsets out there that go beyond the Google Cardboard experience, such as the HTC Vive, which allows wearers to move around in a virtual environment via body movement tracking.
As VR gathers pace, more and more tech companies are creating headsets, some that ape the Cardboard concept and others that attempt to mix in augmented reality as well.
There is also an expectation that VR will become part and parcel of the business world, with the potential for companies to use it to showcase products or show locations such as hotel rooms and conference facilities via VR services.
However, the cost of full VR headsets, such as the Facebook Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, at around £1,000 for the right kit to run the headsets, means that it may be a while before VR become a truly mainstream piece of technology.
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