Google is playing catchup in the virtual reality space, but it has plans for the future. The internet giant has assembled a team of engineers to build a version of Android that will power virtual reality apps; and it plans to distribute it in the same manner as the smartphone operating system.
VR headset announcements grabbed the headlines over smartphones last week at Mobile World Congress, a shift that shows just how much importance manufacturers are putting into the new hardware. While the applications of the technology are questionable for the average consumer, it looks like most major brands are in it to avoid falling behind.
Samsung’s move to purchase Oculus appears to be paying off with the Gear VR nearing completion, despite there now being two Developer’s Editions of the device. Oculus is taking the slow route to releasing a final product, and has been classifying all its devices as development kits. HTC and Sony similarly released VR headsets; both to good first impressions. Game developer Valve has also jumped on the bandwagon and is preparing to share its Lighthouse VR technology with just about anyone who wants to use it, ensuring that there will be plenty of VR headsets appearing in the market.
Google on the other hand, has been keeping relatively quiet about its plans for the VR revolution. The company had distributed the Google Cardboard, which is a low budget DIY VR headset that functions in a way similar to the Samsung Gear VR. This lack of news is unusual for Google who are more comfortable in going first in many new technologies.
This is set to change with the new team that is comprised of “tens of engineers”. The new Android operating system for VR will be distributed for free; a strategy that helped the smartphone version reach market dominance. That being said, the plan has not quite worked out the same for the recent Android Wear OS for smartwatches.
Google itself has not commented on the new team of engineers or the operating system. However, it shouldn’t be long before we see what it has planned for the VR world. Provided that the technology lives up to its hype and doesn’t go the way of the Nintendo Virtual Boy.
[Source: Wall Street Journal]