Back in June 2014 Google surprised the virtual reality (VR) industry with the reveal of its Google Cardboard, a smartphone-based HMD that users can assemble themselves with the necessary materials. At the time it was simply thought of as an interesting experiment but has proved itself to be much more than that throughout the year, attracting interest from several high-profile companies now using smartphone VR to develop new videogames and market products. And its importance is only set to grow as Google this week announces its first major update for Cardboard.
The update arrives along with news that 500,000 Cardboards have been shipped. Highlighting the list of improvements is a new Cardboard-dedicated section of the Google Play Store for the Android operating system (OS), allowing users to find all compatible content in one handy spot, be it one of Jaunt’s 360 degree videos or the likes of Proton Pulse and Vanguard V from indie developer Justin Moravetz. On the development front, the company has also introduced a Cardboard software development kit (SDK) for Android and Unity, allowing for easier creation of VR content on mobile platforms.
Elsewhere Google is publishing new specs for Cardboard with instructions for different cutting tools that will allow those creating kits to produce them more conveniently. A viewer calibration tool for the SDK will also be arriving later in the year so that it’s possible to define the viewer’s base and focal length, adjusting apps accordingly. Finally, Google teased that it is working on its own VR projects and is hiring for a range of VR-specific jobs right now including software engineers, a visual designer, an interaction designer and, intriguingly, a motion designer.
It certainly seems as if the company is serious about the future of its HMD, then. Interestingly these updates have been announced in the same week that the other major Android-based VR HMD, Samsung’s Gear VR, arrives in the US. VRFocus will continue to follow Google Cardboard, reporting back with any further updates on its progress.