Google is Working on a VR Recovery for Standalone VR Headsets
The Future is Now
If you’ve ever dabbled in the world of custom ROMs and kernels, you’re probably somewhat familiar with the custom recovery called TWRP. But devices with unlocked bootloaders aren’t the only runs that have a recovery mode, in fact, every Android device has a built-in recovery interface, though the options are usually incredibly limited. Even Android Wear devices have access to a recovery mode, which when you think about it would sound absurd to the average person. Although it should be expected, there’s another device type that will have access to a recovery mode: VR headsets. According to a recent commit in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), Google is working on VR recovery for (presumably) standalone VR headsets.
Currently there are only a few devices that are compatible with Google’s Daydream VR, though the company is slowly working on expanding device support with its partners. Though the Daydream VR platform is slowly chugging along, Google is also starting to focus on the standalone VR headset market. While there isn’t yet any standalone VR headset made by Google, the company did announce at this year’s I/O conference that they were working on one. The company announced that they would be working with Qualcomm on a reference design for the new standalone headset, while HTC and Lenovo would ship the first consumer-ready devices sometime this year. Using built-in sensors in the device and a new technology called “WorldSense”, the standalone VR headsets from Google would drastically improve movement tracking.
Since Google I/O, the company has been light on any new details regarding their standalone headsets. Presumably, the standalone headset would support existing Daydream VR applications, which likely means it would be running a heavily modified version of Android built specifically for the standalone headset. As with any device powered by Android, however, developers may need access to a recovery mode in case something goes wrong during their testing. Or perhaps an average user with one of these headsets may need to enter the recovery in order to do a factory reset of the headset. Who knows. But at least we do know that there’s a VR recovery UI for headsets, and it’s currently being worked on by Google.
VR Recovery for Standalone VR Headsets
A commit submitted in June to the /platform/bootable/recovery branch reveals this new VR recovery UI. As shown below, the recovery mode makes specific adjustments for VR device compatibility. The recovery mode can be accessed by connecting the device to a computer and entering
adb reboot recovery in a command prompt or terminal window to view the UI.
In Android.mk, we can see that the new VR recovery UI is indeed a distinct recovery mode for VR headsets. In the list, there’s a UI for phones, Android Wear devices, and now VR headsets.
The exact layout of the recovery is defined in this file. There’s really no way for us to test this, but from the commits it’s clear that this is indeed being worked on. If anything, at least this means that the standalone VR headsets from Google will most likely be running a version of Android, which isn’t really unexpected. The existence of a recovery mode for a new Google Android device shouldn’t be surprising either, but it still boggles the mind to consider the possibility that we might be able to flash a version of TWRP onto a virtual reality headset. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part, though we’re already at the point where certain Android-powered smartwatches are able to run custom ROMs, so it’s only a matter of time before the novelty of VR headsets wears off and we treat them just like any other device that we own.