Google Cardboard
Critics were saying several times in the past that Google's virtual reality initiative is too big for the company to just be working on Google Cardboard.

Now, the Financial Times has published a report detailing what seems to be the next phase of Google's VR push. The report says that Google is working on "a successor to Cardboard," creating a higher-quality headset and building VR software directly into Android.

The device sounds like a Google version of Samsung's Gear VR. Like Cardboard, the headset will be powered by existing smartphone, with a "more solid plastic casing" along with better lenses and sensors. Also like Cardboard, this won't be limited to just a handful of devices, with the report saying that the headset "will be compatible with a much broader range of Android devices than Gear VR."

Such a device sounds like it would occupy a compelling spot in the market. The Gear VR is a great device — the US$ 100 headset is a powerful entry-level VR experience — but it only works with Samsung phones. Cardboard has much wider phone compatibility, but it comes with a huge list of compromises that lead to a subpar experience. Taking the Gear VR model and expanding it to accept most popular smartphones sounds like a solid idea.

One of the Gear VR's biggest strengths — and Cardboard's biggest weaknesses — is the mounting solution. Gear VR is custom-made for Samsung's flagships, so it keeps the phone in a perfect position relative to the lenses.

Cardboard's universal mounting solution is rather finicky, relying on the user to align the phone correctly in the headset. Even if the user get it right, Cardboard only uses friction from a rubber band to keep the phone in place, so it will often move slightly. An important feature of Google's VR headset will be how it deals with securely mounting phones of various shapes and sizes.

On the software side of things, the report says that Google will embed new software "directly into its Android smartphone operating system rather than relying only on a traditional app." This sounds a lot like the Android VR OS in the past from sources like The Wall Street Journal.

The report says the headset will be out "later this year," so there's a good chance everyone will hear about it at Google I/O.