Google is addressing major pain points of its standalone VR headset (GOOGL)

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Google announced three new experimental features for developers to use on the Lenovo Mirage Solo VR headset, which runs on Google’s Daydream VR platform. The new experimental features will eventually bring enhanced device functionality and a new library of accessible VR content to the stand-alone headset, which are two sore spots the industry needs to address to drive consumer adoption.

FORECAST: Global VR Headset Shipments

Among global VR headset owners, 55% reported that they want more content, while 42% reported that they want better product functionality, according to ARtillry Insights. The new tools are available for select developers but will be offered to all developers in the near future.

Here’s how Google’s addressing the two major pain points — product functionality and lack of content — for Mirage Solo users:

  • The company unveiled prototype controllers to enable a more natural interaction in virtual environments. Google added APIs to support positional controller tracking with six degrees of freedom (6DoF) and created a prototype controller to enable developers to start testing experiences that leverage 6DoF tracking. 6DoF controllers — previously limited to PC-powered VR headsets — allow users to reach forward and back as well as side to side. This is a big improvement, as the Mirage Solo only worked with controllers that enable 3DoF tracking, which limits side-to-side movement.
  • The new experimental see-through mode opens up a new immersive experience for headset users. Google’s new see-through mode lets users see the world around them by using the headset’s cameras. The combination of Google’s see-through mode and WorldSense tracking technology — which provides positional headset tracking — will enable developers to blend the physical and digital worlds with AR. Google’s already testing an AR interior design app that lets users superimpose digital chairs, tables, and furniture of different sizes and colors inside of a room they’re standing in.
  • Daydream will support Android smartphone apps in VR, giving users a new subset of content to choose from. Google’s enabling developers to add support for existing Android apps in VR, allowing users to play smartphone apps and games in a VR setting. This support will usher in a new wave of content for Mirage Solo users.

The new features better position the Mirage Solo as an attractive VR headset in the industry’s most promising segment. The stand-alone VR space is relatively new — Oculus and Lenovo are the first to embrace the form factor for the US market, and only just entered the space in May — but it marks the biggest step toward mainstream adoption of consumer-oriented VR headsets because of the combination of a palatable consumer price point and immersive content qualities that are better than smartphone-powered VR.

Business Insider Intelligence expects the growing interest in stand-alone VR headsets will enable the form factor to account for roughly 30% of total headsets shipped in 2018, despite the fact that they were only available for eight months of the year. The Mirage Solo’s new developer features, if rolled out to consumers, could help Google capture a greater share of stand-alone shipments in the year ahead.

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