Google is starting to get serious with the Cardboard VR, despite vice president Sundar Pichai brushing it off as a small project worked on for a few hours at Google I/O. A new update to the software side of the virtual reality platform adds developer support for Android and Unity, allowing developers to create games and apps for Cardboard VR.
Google is interested in virtual tours, experiences and visual games, although any weird and wacky ideas may be accepted on the Cardboard VR, to beef up the store. There are already 14 games on the service and 11 are free-to-play. Several VR developers have expressed interest in developing simple titles on Android and Unity.
Cardboard VR, for people unaware, is a low-cost virtual reality alternative. It costs $14.99 to $39.99, depending on NFC and design. It can also be done at home, if you have a lot of cardboard and some equipment. Google uses the smartphone as the display and internals, similar to Samsung’s Gear VR. The Cardboard VR offers a simple way to check out some VR apps, without spending hundreds on an actual VR headset or a Galaxy Note 4 for the Gear VR.
It is questionable where Google is going with Cardboard VR. Perhaps this is the first edition to kickstart the apps store, with a second product coming next year. Google is also working on Glass for 2015 release, another visual changing device.
Google does need to compete against Facebook, after the social network acquired Oculus for $2 billion. Valve, Microsoft and Sony are all building VR equipment, according to several leaked reports.