5/13/2016: Updated to reflect a recent discovery in the Google Play Developer Console.
It’s looking like a safe bet that Google will show off Android VR, the working title for a dedicated virtual reality headset, at I/O next week.
The latest piece of evidence comes from the Google Play Developer Console, which briefly had a dedicated placeholder for Android VR. This implies that developers will soon have the option to build native VR support for Android apps submitted to the Play Store.
This follow a report from investor and former tech journalist Peter Rojas, who shared the goods in a series of tweets.
Android VR will definitely be announced next week, and from what I’ve heard will be less powerful than the Vive or Rift.— Peter Rojas (@peterrojas) May 11, 2016
The details mirror an earlier Financial Times report that Google was at work on its own virtual reality hardware.
In follow-up tweets, Rojas said the standalone device would be more powerful than the Gear VR, but not as good as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.
To get a high level of performance, such a device would probably need to cost more than the rather affordable Gear VR, which requires a modern Galaxy smartphone. Google has recently been ramping up its internal hardware team with the hiring of former Motorola CEO Rick Osterloh to lead a new hardware division.
It’s one of many things we’ll watch out for at Google I/O next week in Mountain View.
The story behind the story: This is an ideal next step for Google’s foray into VR. The company sought to popularize the concept with Cardboard, which allows most smartphones to do a quick and dirty transformation into a virtual reality headset. It offers an attractive gateway drug, which other companies have sought to make mainstream with their own headsets. How Google’s own offering will compare is definitely an intriguing question.