Anything Facebook can do, Google can do better -- or can it? After failing to overtake Facebook in the social media realm, Google is now going after the virtual reality market.
Dubbed Cardboard, Google is hyping a virtual reality viewer that consists of a smartphone and some cardboard. The company first announced the concept at its I/O Conference in June. Today, there are more than a half-million Cardboard viewers in the hands of consumers, and Google is rolling out a new round of updates for users, developers and makers.
Here's how it works: You take Cardboard, put your smartphone in it, fold it and look inside. That lets you explore a variety of apps that range from test drives to fully immersive games to live concerts.
Chair in the Room, for example, casts a dim light around you and its flickering provides the only sound in the room. The Paul McCartney app lets you experience the musical legend in 360 degrees. Tuscany Drive, meanwhile, lets you explore the beauty of that Italian region.
New Cardboard Tools
"If you've ever tried creating a VR application, then you've probably wrestled with issues like lens distortion correction, head tracking, and side-by-side rendering," said Andrew Nartker, product manager for Google Cardboard, writing on Google's Developers Blog. "It's important to get these things right, but they can suck up all your time -- time you'd rather spend on game play or graphics."
Google introduced Cardboard SDKs for Android and the Unity game-development engine to simplify common VR development tasks. Google is also publishing new building specs with specific cutting tools in mind. The company has promised to add a viewer calibration tool early next year to the Cardboard SDK so developers can define their viewer's base and focal length, for example, then have every Cardboard app adjust accordingly.
"The growth of mobile and the acceleration of open platforms like Android make it an especially exciting time for VR," Nartker said. "There are more devices and more enthusiastic developers than ever before, and we can't wait to see what's next."
Measuring Up to Facebook
We caught up with Greg Sterling, vice president of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association, to get his thoughts on Google Cardboard. He told us the search engine giant's latest innovation is a low-rent version of Facebook's Oculus Rift.
Facebook acquired Oculus VR, an immersive virtual reality technology company, for $2 billion in March 2014. Oculus is developing as a heavy hitter in immersive virtual reality technology. The company has established plenty of interest among developers, having posted more than 75,000 development kit orders for the Oculus Rift, its virtual reality headset.
"This is an effort by the company to quickly cultivate a developer ecosystem around its own virtual reality offering," Sterling said. "If virtual reality becomes a mainstream phenomenon -- and it likely will -- we will see Google put much more investment into building a more polished product and user experience."
Posted: 2014-12-15 @ 1:53pm PT
Hmmm, these look familiar... oh yeah, stereoscopes.
Posted: 2014-12-15 @ 12:05pm PT
I bought one of the Google Cardboard viewers. Made me dizzy and nauseous, something that very rarely happens.
Posted: 2014-12-15 @ 11:42am PT
Dont see the point in attaching a VR concept to smart phones. Seems like a perfect way to doom the whole idea back to obscurity for another 20 years. Should solely be for home entertainment or pc/console games.