REPORT: Google is secretly working on an augmented reality headset

Barack obama virtual realityAlexander Koerner/Getty ImagesGoogle has its eye on the virtual reality space.

There are reports swirling that Google is secretly building an augmented reality-style headset.

On Saturday, Engadget reported that the Californian technology giant is building the head-mounted computer that will work independently of smartphones and desktop PCs.

Recode recently reported that Google had “nixed” a project to build a more conventional virtual reality headset in the vein of Facebook’s Oculus Rift. But no, Engadget’s sources say: There is apparently still a headset quietly in development.

It sounds like a hybrid VR-AR setup: “While it does have a screen, it will offer features more in line with augmented reality systems than existing VR headsets.”

Don’t expect any clarity from Google on the matter — like most tech companies, it almost never comments on products before they are officially announced. And given its propensity for experimentation and “moonshots,” it’s entirely possible that Engadget’s headset — if it is a different one to the one Recode reported on — will still never enter commercial production.

The rumours are indicative of just how important AR and VR is becoming for the industry’s major players: It is widely viewed as the next major platform, with similar possibilities to the early days of mobile. Facebook has the Oculus Rift, Microsoft has its AR Hololens headset, and there are intermittent rumours about Apple’s intentions to get into virtual reality.

Google got into the mobile-powered VR game early with its DIY Cardboard headset, and earlier this year it announced Daydream — a virtual reality platform that, like Cardboard (but much more sophisticated), uses a smartphone as its hardware base.

But Daydream may not be the company’s only AR/VR space. Engadget reports that employees working on the secretive alternative headset have been told that Daydream is “not the company’s long-term plan for virtual and augmented reality.”

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