For years, Google was happy to be a software company.
It built the apps and services by other companies on their devices, and it the model worked well for Google. Its search engine is overwhelmingly the most popular way to find information online. Its mobile operating system, Android, is on more than two billion devices worldwide.
But that’s no longer enough.
The Californian technology giant is now increasingly developing its own hardware products, from high-end smartphones to AI-powered smart speakers designed to control your home. 2016 was the year Google really began to move into the hardware space, and it intends to double down on those initial efforts in 2017.
While Google, like many other tech companies, rarely talks about unannounced products, leaks and rumours still give us a glimpse at what it has in the pipeline.
Here’s a run-down on everything we think Google is planning to unveil this year …
A virtual reality headset
The Google Daydream View was released in November (Google)
Google has been tinkering with virtual reality for years. First it had Cardboard, a super-budget version of VR that let users build a headset with nothing but their phone, two lenses, and a cardboard box. Then last year, it unveiled Daydream … which is basically the same as Cardboard, but with a fancier headset to put the phone in, a remote control, and some minimum technical requirements.
But earlier in May, at its annual I/O developers’ conference, it announced something much more exciting: A standalone virtual reality headset.
It’s working with partners HTC and Lenovo to build headsets (they’ll each release their own), and it’s slated to come out at an unspecified date later this year, costing in the “mid-hundreds range.” It’s a big deal — VR headsets have typically required expensive gaming computers to run. But Google’s new headset won’t require any other device to function.
If successful, it could be a big step in the slow march of virtual reality…