Imitation, say those you just caught copying you, is the sincerest form of flattery. With that in mind, Palmer Luckey and the whole crew at Oculus must be blushing as they read the news that Google just got more serious about virtual reality than it had previously suggested with the Cardboard VR headset.
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The company’s formed a dedicated division for virtual reality computing, headed up byClay Bavor, previously VP for product management for some of Google’s biggest apps such as Gmail, Drive, and Docs. Bavor is now simply VP of Virtual Reality, Google. Damn, that’s a cool job title.
Virtual Reality didn’t appear to be on Google’s radar until quite recently. However, their semi-jokey Cardboard headset has proved hugely popular. In light of the Oculus Rift’s $600 price announcement, which many viewed as surprisingly high, the Cardboard’s universal availability and affordability will prove especially attractive.
Google also acquired mysterious VR company Magic Leap for $542 million in 2014, and their ‘cinematic reality’ technology – whatever that may be, in a move that analysts at the time interpreted as being motivated by a fear of being left behind by Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive.
So, when will we find out about what Google are actually working on, and what impact it’ll have on gaming? Well, there’s the slimmest of chances the company might reveal something at its annual I/O conference on 18th-20th May in Mountain View, CA.
I don’t see it happening though, personally. Google will want to distance themselves from competitors both in terms of timing and approach, and making an announcement between the Rift and Vive’s release dates doesn’t seem all that likely.