Google’s VR dreams are dead: Google Cardboard is no longer for sale | GeekComparison

Google’s last remaining VR product is dead. Today, the company has stopped selling the Google Cardboard VR viewer in the Google Store, the latest step in a long run-down of Google’s once ambitious VR efforts. The message in the Google Store, first noticed by Android Police, reads: “We no longer sell Google Cardboard in the Google Store.”

Google Cardboard was a surprise hit at Google I/O 2015, moving the starting point for VR lower than anyone previously thought. The device was literally a piece of cardboard, shaped like a VR headset, with special plastic lenses. Google built a Cardboard app for Android and iOS that would allow any suitable high-end phone to power the headset. The landscape display was split into left and right views before your eyes, the phone hardware displayed a VR game, and the accelerometers did 3-DoF (degrees of freedom) head tracking. There was even a cardboard action button on the handset that would amplify the touchscreen with a capacitive pad, allowing you to point your head and select options in a VR environment. Since the product was just cardboard and plastic lenses without any electronics, Google sold the headset for just $20.

After cardboard, Google started scaling up its VR ambitions. In 2016, Google also launched a scaled-up version of Google Cardboard, the Google Daydream VR headset. This was a plastic and cloth version of a VR headset with phone, with the main improvements of a headband and small controller, for $80.

Then Google started piling up on software support. VR support was also built into Android 7 Nougat in 2016, allowing Google to make latency-reducing graphics pipeline improvements to the core OS. Google has begun certifying devices for enhanced “Daydream” support, incorporating best-in-class hardware and software practices for VR. Android got a VR home screen and added a special notification style so that apps could still alert you in the 3D VR interface. A VR version of the Play Store allows users to download the latest VR experiences in 3D. VR support came to YouTube and Google Street View, and together with Mozilla, the Chrome team launched WebVR. Google’s best app was Tilt Brush, a great piece of VR painting software.

In 2018, Google even roped in OEMs to create standalone Daydream VR hardware, so instead of being powered by a phone, Android and all the usual phone bits were integrated into a standalone VR headset. The first to be announced was the Lenovo Mirage Solo.

Google’s VR Legacy

As in many other areas, Google was very excited about VR for a few years, and then the company quickly lost interest when it didn’t see immediate success. The VR shutdown started in 2019, when Google dropped Daydream support from the Pixel 4 and killed the Daydream VR headset line. Google released a VR post-mortem statement saying that there was resistance to using a phone for VR, cutting off access to all your apps, and that the company “has achieved the broad consumer or developer adoption we’d hoped for.” ” hadn’t seen. It was also around this time that Google made the Cardboard project open source. VR support in Android was removed from consumer phones with the release of Android 11 in 2020, and Google stopped developing Tilt Brush in January 2021 and chose to open the app under Apache 2.0.

Google may have retired from VR, but Cardboard and Android’s VR legacy lives on. Android should last a long time in VR, even if it hasn’t been officially endorsed by Google. Oculus and Samsung originally worked together on the Gear VR, a beautiful, plastic VR viewer powered by Samsung’s Android phone line. While Samsung has also discontinued VR phones, all of Oculus’ standalone VR headsets still run on Android. Standalone VR headsets are always powered by ARM chips and other off-the-shelf smartphone parts, so Android, however forked or stripped-down you want to make it, will be a top choice for powering this smartphone-adjacent hardware. It already has all the hardware support and APIs you could want, so why reinvent the wheel?

Three years after Cardboard, Nintendo took the idea of ​​Google’s “cheap cardboard accessory” and got to work with it, creating the Nintendo Labo products. Labo packaged Nintendo Switch software with a boatload of pre-cut, printed cardboard sheets that could be assembled into all sorts of inexpensive peripherals like a cardboard piano or a robot suit. The Labo VR kit was an exact copy of Google Cardboard: a cardboard VR headset used the Nintendo Switch as a display, so you can view Nintendo’s worlds in 3D.

Google’s VR division has turned its attention (at least for a while) towards AR rather than VR. Google’s ARCore framework allows developers to create augmented reality apps for Android and iOS, and the company regularly delivers AR enhancements to Android phones. With Apple reportedly working on a VR headset, you have to wonder how long Google’s fickle product direction will stay away from VR.

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