Google is reportedly building a standalone VR headset. We will definitely see it in action at Google IO in May, if not earlier. There were no announcements yet, the story has been reported by the Wall Street Journal talking to "people familiar with the matter".
It's going to be a standalone VR kit, meaning no smartphone is needed. This is, paradoxically, not why it matters, at least in the long term.
Oculus Rift will be an incredible hit among pro users and gamers, and it's going to shift the whole gaming industry into VR. But it's ultimately the Cardboard - Gear VR product line that's going to bring VR to the widest possible audience.
Accessibility matters, and there's hardly any easier way to experience VR than a smartphone-aided head mount. No cables, very little to no custom software, and negligible hardware costs.
Google's VR kit is less accessible, but it is, nevertheless, an important step from a platform perspective. It will further strengthen the Cardboard ecosystem, even if we are pretty certain Google will eventually return to the smartphone-aided product line.
Except with a much greater force.