Project Goa: Mobile VR on any Smartphone

Simple solutions intrigue me – especially when it comes to mobile VR. And Project Goa falls into this category. It offers real virtual reality through your smartphone. And it comes with hand controllers. Better yet, you have freedom of movement up to eight feet.

If all this doesn’t grab your interest, you can use it with whatever VR headset you like. Not just Google Cardboard, but anything currently on the market from Oculus to what comes out of Google’s Daydream project.

Mobile VR with Project Goa

Mobile VR - Project Goa

Designed by Nod Labs, Project Goa positions itself as a consumer-friendly product that includes features offered in high-end VR systems without the pain of a complex setup or buying a new computer. Here’s the description from Popular Science:

Goa is a self-contained system that doesn’t require mounted cameras or cables. The console is a central base station with a tracking camera and a processor to wirelessly assist your smartphone. Two wireless controllers detach from the station to provide hand tracking and freedom of movement, much like the HTC’s Vive’s controllers. Your smartphone fits into a slot on a visor, which then attaches to the headset of your choice.

And here’s the pitch from Nod Labs:

We built GOA to demonstrate that positional tracking for virtual reality can be both precise and portable. Real presence and interaction can be achieved without thousands spent on room-scale equipment, and an entire room sacrificed for your gaming habit. No fire-breathing PC necessary, just the smartphone in your pocket.

Mobile VR that offers real presence and interactivity is a recipe for mass adoption of virtual reality. You could see widespread use of this in public venues (museums, tourism, etc.) where you want to minimize technical issues. Fire-breathing PC’s always seem to tank in public settings.

Project Goa’s Timeline

Project Goa Base Camera for Mobile VR

There’s nothing on the market now, and Goa doesn’t plan to develop a VR headset – there’s enough to choose from already. But it will be in the hands of developers in a few months. Details are few as the project is still evolving.

There are still technical challenges to overcome. Interactivity demands low-latency and while our Smartphones are increasingly powerful devices, they need to get better. Off-loading the computer vision processing to a console is fine – except you still have to get the end result back to your phone wirelessly.

Screen resolution is equally a challenge. Taking off an HTC Vive device and putting on a Gear VR headset with a phone will guarantee disappointment. You’ll love the portability but swear you can count every screen pixel lined up in front of your eyes.

What about Daydream?

With any mobile VR system coming on the market, you have to ask how it fits with Google’s new virtual reality platform. It’s only been a few days since the I/O conference, but Daydream is clearly targeting every corner of the mobile VR market. At the moment, nothing suggests incompatibility between Daydream enabled Smartphones and the Project Goa console. But it’s hard to draw firm conclusions when the first Daydream phones are still 4-6 months away.

Project Goa is an intriguing development. Especially with the promise of freedom of movement and hand controllers that no mobile VR system offers right now. And if it’s compatible with a social VR platform like altspaceVR, it opens a whole world of possibilities in gaming and other virtual activities.

Imagine families and friends sitting around the living room together in VR. It would make our current concerns about people in social settings glued to their smartphones seem positively laughable.

But in the future, reality will feel right at home in the virtual.