Google Responds to ‘Earth VR’s’ Absence on Oculus Rift

by Joe Durbin • November 17th, 2016

Yesterday, Google shook up the virtual reality scene by both announcing and releasing a brand new immersive experience: Google Earth VR. The response from enthusiasts was instantaneous and joyful. Earth VR is powerful, beautiful and provides the freedom of exploration that so many desire within VR.

However, soon after the news broke it quickly became clear that only a select few VR enthusiasts would have the pleasure of soaring around the world in this exciting new title: those that owned an HTC Vive.

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For the time being, Earth VR is effectively exclusive to the Vive. If a non-Vive user attempts to open the experience they will receive a message prompt stating “Earth VR only supports Vive at this time.”

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This message appears even for the very developers that have managed to obtain a pair of Oculus Touch controllers, which don’t release to consumers until next month. For some VR fans, this was a shock since a number of VR games support Oculus Touch and the Rift through Steam.

UploadVR reached out to Google to ask why this strategy was implemented. Google responded by writing that, “”We want to make sure that every platform we release Earth VR for provides a great experience and that takes time. Stay tuned!”

This follows with what Earth VR’s product manager, Mike Podwal, explained in an initial interview before the app’s release:

UploadVR: Earth VR is Google’s second major VR application, with the first being Tiltbrush. Both of those are exclusive to the HTC Vive. Is there any particular reason why this is the case?

Podwal: From the beginning we have had a great relationship with Valve. I believe it was mid-to-late 2014 when we got our hands on Vive dev kits and started building our first prototype demos….but we are seriously thinking through the next steps of cross-platform experiences.

Google’s apparent strategy with Earth VR‘s exclusivity mirrors the general thought line we’ve seen from other developers. Rift and Vive, while capable of similar things, are still fundamentally different platforms that use completely unique tracking methods. This necessitates that most developers of larger, roomscale experiences need to pick a primary platform at launch and then work to crack the codes of the other prevailing headsets.

We will bring you more updates on Earth VR as they become available.

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