Assuming virtual reality catches on, we may look back at the original release of Google Cardboard as a pivotal moment just as important as the first Android phone. Cardboard opened the floodgates and countless companies followed with headsets of their own, now it’s time for Google to lead the way with one hero headset to rule them all.
Google’s solution for Android is Nexus. The company releases at least one hero device every year through partnerships with various gadget-makers to show the best of what Android has to offer. There’s also the Pixel series, which Google builds on its own to showcase premium Chromebooks and more recently an Android tablet.
What I’m suggesting is pretty simple. Google should make the best Cardboard headset possible, either in-house or by teaming up with a trusted partner. LG and Huawei have both built beautiful Nexus gadgets already, making them easy choices. Google could also pick an outsider like Zeiss, which is already taking Cardboard to new levels with the VR One.
Building a high-end version of Cardboard could also give Google an opportunity to use one of its best assets: Tony Fadell. The Nest creator and iPod designer is currently busy trying to fix Google Glass, but is that something anyone really needs? I’d much rather see Fadell put his incredible skills to work creating a beautiful VR headset than another overpriced camera for my face.
Google clearly has big ambitions for Cardboard. The company just established a dedicated VR division, added support for 3D audio, and made it possible to watch every video on YouTube through the headset. Software improvements are great, but the hardware needs to catch up.
You might argue that Cardboard would lose its biggest advantage, the price, if Google improved the design and added some built-in sensors for a smoother experience. But if the company can keep it under $100 I think most people will be fine. Just compare the no-frills Cardboard up top to the luxurious Zeiss VR One below and tell me you disagree.