With Some Help from Google, Virtual Reality Is About to Break Free from the Wires

Upcoming virtual reality devices from both HTC and Lenovo won't need PCs or smartphones to run.

May 18 2017, 3:08pm

If there's one thing that's been consistently annoying about the current virtual reality renaissance it's that almost all of the available devices require you to stay tethered to another device, like a PC or PlayStation 4 with a wire.

But virtual reality may be about to break free from those chains. Yesterday at Google I/O 2017 conference, Google and HTC announced the upcoming release of a new standalone Vive headset powered by Google's Daydream virtual reality platform.

Image: Google

There's no clear word on if it'll be able to handle the Vive's more graphically intensive games and other applications—although the official site claims it'll deliver an "unparalleled experience"—but it at least sounds like the realization of a dream that's been long in the works. The unnamed device requires neither a PC nor a smartphone to run. It supports Google's WorldSense, a 3D mapping technology that works without any external sensors. And since you won't have to stuff your phone into the visor, there's more room available for a larger battery. This is liberating stuff.

Yet details are scant, unfortunately, aside from a couple of teaser images and an announcement that it'll be available "later this year." There's also no word on how much the thing will end up costing, although a price in the range of your average high-end smartphone seems like a safe bet.

The technology isn't just limited to HTC, as Google announced that Lenovo is also making a standalone device with Daydream tech. But for now, at least, Vive is the one to watch. After months of sluggish sales, a competent standalone device from one of the most successful virtual reality headset makes to date could be just want the virtual reality industry needs.