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

Google’s final surviving VR product is lifeless. In the present day the corporate stopped promoting the Google Cardboard VR viewer on the Google Retailer, the final transfer in an extended wind-down of Google’s once-ambitious VR efforts. The message on the Google Store, which was first noticed by Android Police, reads, “We’re not promoting Google Cardboard on the Google Retailer.”

Google Cardboard was a surprise hit at Google I/O 2015 and moved the entry level for VR decrease than anybody had imagined beforehand. The system was a literal piece of cardboard, formed like a VR headset, with particular plastic lenses. Google constructed a Cardboard app for Android and iOS, which might let any suitably high-end telephone energy the headset. The panorama show cut up into left and proper views on your eyes, the telephone {hardware} rendered a VR sport, and the accelerometers did 3-DoF (levels of freedom) head monitoring. There was even a cardboard motion button on the handset that might boop the touchscreen with a capacitive pad, so you could possibly intention together with your head and choose choices in a VR setting. For the reason that product was simply cardboard and plastic lenses with no electronics by any means, Google bought the headset for simply $20.

After cardboard, Google began to scale up its VR ambitions. In 2016, Google additionally launched an upscaled model of Google Cardboard, the Google Daydream VR headset. This was a plastic and fabric model of a phone-powered VR headset, with the important thing enhancements of a head strap and a small controller, for $80.

Subsequent, Google began to pile on software program assist. VR assist additionally was built into Android 7 Nougat in 2016, permitting Google to make latency-reducing graphics pipeline enhancements within the core OS. Google began certifying units for enhanced “Daydream” assist, laying out finest {hardware} and software program practices for VR. Android bought a VR dwelling display and added a particular notification type so apps may nonetheless provide you with a warning within the 3D VR interface. A VR model of the Play Retailer let customers obtain the most recent VR experiences in 3D. VR assist got here to YouTube and Google Avenue View, and along with Mozilla, the Chrome group launched WebVR. Google’s finest app was Tilt Brush, a killer piece of VR portray software program.

In 2018, Google even roped OEMs into making standalone Daydream VR hardware, so as an alternative of being powered by a telephone, Android and all the standard telephone bits have been built-in right into a standalone VR headset. The primary one introduced was the Lenovo Mirage Solo.

Google’s VR legacy

As in many other areas, Google was very obsessed with VR for a couple of years, after which the corporate rapidly misplaced curiosity when it did not see rapid success. The VR shutdown began in 2019, when Google omitted Daydream assist from the Pixel 4 and killed the Daydream VR headset line. Google put out a VR autopsy assertion saying there was resistance to utilizing a telephone for VR, which minimize off entry to all of your apps, and that the corporate hadn’t seen “the broad shopper or developer adoption we had hoped.” It was additionally round this time that Google open sourced the Cardboard venture. VR assist in Android was stripped out of shopper telephones with 2020’s launch of Android 11, and Google quit Tilt Brush development in January 2021, selecting to open supply the app underneath Apache 2.0.

Google might need give up VR, however Cardboard and Android’s VR legacy stay on. Android ought to nonetheless stick round for an extended whereas in VR, even when it isn’t formally sanctioned by Google. Oculus and Samsung initially teamed up on the Gear VR, a flowery, plastic VR viewer that was powered by Samsung’s Android telephone line. Whereas Samsung has quit phone VR, too, all of Oculus’ standalone “Quest” VR headsets nonetheless run Android. Standalone VR headsets are all the time powered by ARM chips and different off-the-shelf smartphone components, so Android—nevertheless, forked or stripped-down you need to make it—will likely be a high decide to energy this smartphone-adjacent {hardware}. It already has all of the {hardware} assist and APIs you could possibly need, so why re-invent the wheel?

Three years after Cardboard, Nintendo took Google’s “low cost cardboard accent” concept and ran with it, creating the Nintendo Labo merchandise. Labo packaged Nintendo Swap software program with a boatload of pre-cut, printed cardboard sheets, which may very well be assembled into all kinds of low cost peripherals like a cardboard piano, or a robot suit. The Labo VR kit was an actual Google Cardboard copy: a cardboard VR headset used the Nintendo Swap because the show, letting you view Nintendo’s worlds in 3D.

Google’s VR division has turned its consideration (no less than for some time) to AR as an alternative of VR. Google’s ARCore framework lets builders make augmented actuality apps for Android and iOS, and the corporate regularly ships AR enhancements on Android telephones. With Apple reportedly working on a VR headset, although, you have to surprise how lengthy Google’s fickle product path will be capable to keep away from VR.

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