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Google Announces ‘VR View’ And Native iOS SDK For Cardboard

by Joe Durbin • March 30th, 2016

In a blog post Wednesday morning, Google product manager Nathan Martz announced VR View: a new way to embed interactive virtual reality content in web browsers, mobile devices, and Cardboard viewers.

According to the post:

VR views take 360 VR images or videos and transform them into interactive experiences that users can view on their phone, with a Cardboard viewer, or on their desktop computer. For native apps, you can embed a VR view by grabbing the latest Cardboard SDK for Android or iOS* and adding a few lines of code. On the web, embedding a VR view is as simple as adding an iframe on your site. We’re open-sourcing the HTML and JavaScript for web developers on github, so you can self-host and modify it to match your needs.

This announcement led directly into a second revelation: Google will now be offering a native Cardboard SDK directly on iOS. This was previously a feature only available to Android mobile developers and, according to an asterisked addition at the bottom of Martz’s post:

“Yes, you read that right! Starting today, there’ll be a native Cardboard SDK for iOS. Provided in idiomatic Objective C, and packaged as a single, easy-to-use CocoaPod, this new SDK includes all of the features already available in the Cardboard SDK for Android.”

Martz is a member of the newly formed Google team that reports directly to the company’s freshly minted VP of Virtual Reality: Clay Bavor. This team is still a relatively secretive group for the tech giant. Google remains unwilling, at this point, to reveal the number of employees or the amount resources being devoted to this new VR department. It is also remaining tight-lipped when it comes to the products and services the team will be working on.

The VR View announcement is a rare peek behind this silicon curtain. And, In an interview with UploadVR, Martz pulled that curtain open just a little bit wider.

“Its not about getting it working its about compatibility,” Martz said, explaining that VR View’s biggest challenge was getting it to function correctly on all of the major web browsers. 

Once that puzzle was completed, Martz explained that the next focus for Google’s VR engineers was user experience.

“For the user we wanted this to be as simple as possible,” Martz said. “This means that we had to do all the heavy lifting on our end…On the web you simply embed an iFrame similar to the way you embed a YouTube video.”

The VR assets that can be added are a diverse group, according to Martz. He hopes that people will use this platform to incorporate everything from basic 360 photos, to more advanced “Magic Window” experiences that use your phones onboard motion tracking components to create more immersive and interactive experiences.

According to Martz, VR View will be especially useful in the business world:

“Say you’re a home builder doing physical construction or design. People come to your office but the home doesn’t exist yet. Some people want to be able to buy and feel confident that they know what they’re paying for. A lot of people won’t buy if they can’t see what they’re buying…VR can absolutely allow that to happen.”

Martz’s hope for VR View is that it will lead to a future for the web where VR content is just as easily shared and accessed as photos and standard videos are today.

Finally, when it comes to the native iOS SDK for Cardboard, Martz expressed his excitement to finally be providing developers with parity in the mobile arena.

“A lot of our developers use Unity, but for the native app developers there weren’t that many options…We hope people will use this to create every kind of VR experience that they can.”

We will bring you more news concerning Google’s VR projects the moment that they become available.