Google Cardboard was one of this year’s biggest surprises. Unveiled at I/O, the concept used every day components—not a fancy headset—to give developers and regular people better access to virtual reality technology. Anybody with some patience could build a Cardboard viewer of their own—all they needed after that was an Android smartphone and they’d be good to go. Google says over 500,000 Cardboard units have been sold to date (through retailers like DODOcase, I Am Cardboard and more), and that’s just the beginning.
To help users better explore the world of Cardboard, Google has created a dedicated page on its Play store. There you’ll find a ton of apps (free and paid), from The Hobbit VR Experience, to SpaceTerrorVR, and more are on the way. Google on Wednesday said it is releasing Cardboard SDKs for Android and Unity, which aims to “simplify common VR development tasks so [developers] can focus on [their] awesome, immersive app.”
In addition to new easier VR application development, Google is also publishing new building specs with specific cutting tools in mind. So if you ever have plans to build your own Cardboard viewer in the future (or maybe distribute some to your friends), Google will have new plans that you can follow. There’s a brand new page for manufacturing that includes best practices, templates and access to the kit.
And beginning next year, Google says it will help makers tailor the viewing experience to a unique optical layout by defining a viewer’s base and focal length. In short, it should be easier than ever for companies and people like you and me to build Cardboard viewers. Not that it was particularly complex before. But Google is clearly dedicated to pushing the platform forward, and with better tools available to developers, the VR experience should improve quite a bit over the coming months.
Who knew such a simple idea would blossom into one of 2014’s biggest products. Interest in VR has never been higher, with companies like Sony, Samsung and Oculus all hot on the trail for newer and better technology. But it looks like Google is quietly passing everyone by, and getting the entire community involved to boot. In fact, the search giant is hiring folks who are passionate about VR; if that’s you, it might not hurt to hit Google up.