The next step for Google beyond Cardboard was pretty obvious but the Financial Times is now reporting Google is developing a new VR headset for smartphones and supporting the technology as a deeper part of the Android operating system.
The report is authored by Tim Bradshaw, who recently broke stories about Apple suggesting the iPhone company is also getting serious about its mixed reality efforts. Bradshaw describes the Google efforts as being similar to Samsung’s Gear VR but working with a wider range of phones.
The efforts raise big questions for smartphone buyers and VR early adopters. Among them: Will Google’s efforts provide an experience as good as, or better, than Gear VR? Also, will Google’s efforts to build VR support deeper into Android create any compatibility issues with future updates to the Oculus platform?
Oculus CTO John Carmack commented on the relationship between Google and Facebook last year, saying “I wish we had better relations with Google. Everybody is friendly, there’s no animosity but there’s just that sense of like, sooner or later, we’re going to be at cross purposes.”
Facebook’s Oculus platform launched initially on a Samsung phone because a single manufacturer allowed the partners to optimize the software and hardware for the best possible mobile VR experience. Google, however, initially built Android on an open strategy adopted by a wide-range of device manufacturers. If Google intends to match the Oculus experience, the company may need to exert more control over the Android ecosystem to make sure quality VR experiences are possible on compatible phones. On PCs, Oculus started an “Oculus Ready” program to specify machines meeting the recommended specifications for the Rift. The effort should help buyers make sure their computers will provide a good VR experience. How Google VR leader Clay Bavor chooses to attack the same problem with Android phones will be worth watching closely.