It looks as though everyone wants a hand in the burgeoning virtual reality (VR) scene these days. Facebook has the Oculus Rift under its wing, Sony has the PlayStation VR, HTC and Valve are cooking up Vive, and Microsoft is testing the augmented reality waters with HoloLens. Google’s only consumer-focused entry into VR thus far has been the uber-cheap Cardboard Viewer, which works in conjunction with your smartphone.
However, Google is looking to step up its efforts in VR, CEO Sundar Pichai has tapped a veteran Googler, Clay Bavor, as the Vice President of Virtual Reality. Clay previously served as a VP of Product Management for cloud apps like Google Docs, Gmail and Google Drive. More importantly, he had a hand in creating Cardboard.
Google Cardboard Viewer
Google kicked off its VR efforts with Cardboard, which can be had for a few dollars (or free if you look hard enough), and has gone in the complete opposite direction courtesy of a partnership with GoPro via the $15,000, 16-camera, 360-degree Odyssey VR rig. Odyssey uses Google’s Jump VR platform to create an immersive video experience that can be viewed on YouTube with VR headsets.
In Bavor’s absence, the Google’s apps will be helmed by software veteran (but Google newbie) Diane Greene, who joined Google in November to run the search giant’s enterprise division.
GoPro Odyssey uses Google's Jump VR platform
The VR market is expected to really heat up during the first half of 2016. Pre-orders have already opened for the $599 Oculus Rift and it will begin shipping on March 28th. Unfortunately, Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey faced incredible backlash once the official price was announced, considering that his previous “ballpark” pricing estimate of $350 was clearly misguided.
Another VR headset to look out for is the HTC Vive, which was developed in conjunction with Valve. Although we don’t yet have a price for the Vive (and it could in fact be priced even dearer than the Oculus Rift) although pre-orders will go live on February 29th, with shipments starting in April.