Google launched the Daydream View headset late last year, the company’s first virtual reality hardware product. As a smartphone clip-in headset, the View is a relatively simple device which leaves the bulk of the work up to the host smartphone. A slew of recent job postings however suggest significant new AR/VR hardware in the works from Google.
Last time we checked in on Google’s job listings, the company was seeking a number of new hardware related positions, including an Electrical Engineer for the company’s AR/VR team who could “Lead electrical hardware development for consumer electronic products from concept into production,” and had “experience supporting high-volume overseas manufacturing builds.”
A number of new job listings in the last month and a half point to continued ramping up of an internal team to support new hardware initiatives. While the prior job listings seemed to focus on deep engineering work for a new AR/VR product (or products), the latest listings paint a picture of a product ready to make the jump from the R&D phase to a consumer device.
The listing for the former seeks a candidate who can “define new architectures for virtual reality products while collaborating with [industrial design] and human factors teams,” and can “travel as needed to […] manufacturing facilities overseas.”
For the latter, the company is looking for someone who can “develop and manage a team that is responsible for overall hardware system validation and quality optimization of Wearable and Virtual/Augmented Reality hardware products” and can “work with internal test engineers, partner engineers, and contract manufacturer on transitioning product to mass production, and assist with product sustaining efforts.”
The company’s first VR headset, Daydream View, is a rather simple device that consists of little more than a housing, a pair of lenses, an NFC chip, and a simple controller (the headset itself doesn’t even need power!). If that’s already out the door, what’s all this new hardware talent for?
One guess is a more significant piece of hardware in the form of an ‘all-in-one’ VR headset, something which has been rumored to be in the works for some time now. Rather than snapping a phone into a shell, an all-in-one headset would have everything necessary on-board, including computing hardware and battery banks. A device like this would ideally employ inside-out positional tracking, in which Google has significant background thanks to their ‘Tango’ initiative, though that tech hasn’t yet been merged with the VR end of things.
An all-in-one VR headset could have several major advantages over a smartphone based VR headset, specifically when it comes to thermal envelope, computing power, display, and ergonomics. Price, however, is a likely limiting factor.
It’s also possible that the new device might not be an all-in-one VR headset, but could be closer to a smartphone shell except with more substantial on-board hardware, like additional sensors that could add things like hand-tracking and positional tracking, while the snap-in smartphone would continue to be the brains of the operation.
Another reasonable guess would be the next generation of Google Glass, which the company has teased since at least as far back as 2015.
Whatever Google is working on, it’s clear that the company’s talent in AR/VR hardware has been expanding rapidly as of late, likely alongside its ambitions in this industry.