Irish chip could be at heart of Google’s plan to create a revolutionary standalone VR headset

12 Feb 2016

Google is working on a revolutionary new VR headset that requires neither smartphones or PCs but chips from Irish tech player Movidius .

Google is believed to be working on a revolutionary new VR headset that requires neither smartphones or PCs to track motion, and chips from Irish tech player Movidius are reportedly powering the new concept in VR. This could be just one dimension of Google and Movidius’ machine-vision partnership.

Earlier this week, it emerged that Google was working on a successor to Cardboard that would have a solid plastic casing and bring serious competition to the Gear VR headsets created by Samsung, as well as Oculus Rift.

But now it has emerged that Google is also working on a standalone VR product that won’t need to be tethered to a smartphone, games console or PC to function.

If the VR experiences are top quality, this could be a game-changer in a market where high-end PC-based VR headsets will be pretty pricey. Oculus this week began taking orders for the Oculus Rift PC bundles at prices ranging from $1,499 up to $3,000.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Google plans to compete intensely in a market that will see other rivals reveal headsets this year, including Sony, Microsoft and HTC.

VR platform war is virtually upon us

Google is assembling the technologies and the people to make it a force to be reckoned with in VR and, last month, the company named Clay Bavor its first virtual reality chief and it has a guiding principle of making VR available for everyone, not just the well-heeled.

According to The Wall Street Journal, one of the people familiar with the matter said the headset will include a screen, high-powered processors and outward-facing cameras.

It reported that Google plans to use chips from Irish start-up Movidius Inc that use the cameras’ feeds to track the motion of the user’s head.


The Movidius chip could power a plethora of intelligent, futuristic devices by giving computers the ability to contextualise, sense and see their environment

This could be revolutionary because other high-end headsets, like the Oculus Rift, tap the computing power of connected PCs and use external cameras to track users’ motion.

Last month, Google signed a deal with Dublin tech company Movidius that will see the Irish company’s MA2450 chip feature in forthcoming personal devices, like smartphones, that will be contextually aware.

The deal will see Google use Movidius processors alongside the entire Movidius software environment to run machine intelligence locally on devices.

This means smartphones will still be able to do advanced complex tasks, such as understand images and audio, with remarkable accuracy without being connected to the internet.

Movidius’ chip technology has been at the centre of developments by Google to create Project Tango smartphones that can sense their immediate environment.

Movidius, which was founded 10 years ago by David Maloney and Sean Mitchell, recently raised €38m in a move that will enable it to generate 100 new jobs in Dublin.

The company now has offices in Silicon Valley, Ireland, Romania and China.

Right under our noses, not only will an Irish chip be at the heart of the internet of things revolution, it could power the VR revolution too.

Google Cardboard VR image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years