​Nokia 'to release virtual reality hardware next week'

Nokia is reportedly readying a virtual reality launch, joining its former phone-making rivals in the market.

Nokia is planning to launch a virtual reality product next week at a VIP event in Los Angeles, according to reports.

While under the agreement to sell its devices business to Microsoft last year prevents Nokia from making a return to the smartphone business until at least the end of 2016, the company is still pressing on with alternative routes back into the consumer hardware market.

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Its latest effort is a virtual reality hardware product that will see it competing against a number of high-profile virtual reality and augmented reality devices, from Microsoft's HoloLens and Facebook-owned Oculus Rift to the Google-backed Magic Leap as well as offerings from Sony, HTC, and Samsung.

According to Recode, Nokia's forthcoming VR kit will be built by its Technologies unit, the business responsible for handling Nokia's patents and intellectual property, as well as the launch of the N1 tablet last year. Nokia Technologies is the smallest of the Finnish company's three units - alongside Here and Networks - that it kept after selling its device manufacturing business to Microsoft last year.

Not much is known about the VR product but Recode's report follows Nokia Technologies sending out invites to an event next week with the cryptic tagline "Nowhere/Now Here". While it's been interpreted as a reference to Here, Nokia's maps business, that's a separate unit to Technologies and is reportedly about to be sold to a trio of German car makers.

Nokia told ZDNet it doesn't comment on rumour or speculation.

The company earlier this month stamped out rumours that it was planning an imminent return to the handset business, at least as a manufacturer. It sold the bulk of its manufacturing, marketing and distribution assets to Microsoft last year, which just wrote-off the bulk of the $7.6bn it paid for the business. With those assets gone, the only realistic way for Nokia to return to the phone business is with a partner, meaning an arrangement similar to the way it launched the N1 where it licensed its design of the tablet to Foxconn, which manufactures, markets, and distributes it in China. Nokia Technologies has also released software products, including the Android Z launcher.

Nokia's rumoured launch into virtual reality hardware comes after an April report by Recode that Nokia Technologies had several projects on the boil, including ones in imaging and virtual reality.

The launch comes amid speculation that Nokia has signed a deal with Audi, BMW and Daimler to sell its Here mapping business for about $2.71bn with the auto industry seeking an independent path to mapping crucial to the future of cars.

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