Google is building AR and VR that knows where you are

WorldSense enables positional tracking, while VPS is like GPS but for indoor spaces.

Chris Velazco

Google made plenty of VR- and AR-related announcements at I/O, its annual developer conference today. Not only will Samsung's Galaxy S8 and LG's upcoming flagship be Daydream-compatible, but the company also announced that it's working on standalone Daydream VR headsets. Enabling the latter is a unique technology called WorldSense, a new set of positional tracking tools that doesn't require any cameras or complicated setup. This sets the Daydream headsets apart from the competition. The current HTC Vive, for example, needs external room sensors; Google's upcoming headsets wouldn't.

This technology is important because it enables the standalone Daydream headsets to track your precise movements in space without the need for cables or an external PC. In this way, it sounds very similar to Project Santa Cruz, which is Oculus' own standalone VR headset. But while Project Santa Cruz is still in the prototype phase, Google's standalone Daydream already has partners like HTC and Lenovo working on headsets people can actually buy.

Google is not all about VR of course; it also announced important new developments on the AR side of things. At I/O, Google's VP of VR Clay Bavor introduced a technology called Virtual Positioning System for Tango, Google's AR platform. He showed a demo where someone is walking around with a Tango phone in Lowe's, and is able to navigate his way around thanks to visual points inside the store. He was also able to pinpoint the location of a type of screwdriver with the help of Google Lens, truly making full use of AR's strengths. Think of VPS as GPS, but for indoor spaces.

What's more, Bavor says that VPS can be used to help visually impaired people navigate the world, especially when combined with an audio interface. VPS works right now in a few partner museums and select Lowe's stores, and could be in more places in the future.

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