With Google cancelling the Daydream View VR headset in October, there were rumors that the Cardboard could be coming to a similar fate. The Cardboard has always positioned itself as the ‘no-frills’ alternative to higher end headsets. It aimed to give a VR experience at a low-cost rate and it launched with massive success in 2014. However, Google admitted themselves that they have had to endure a steadily declining userbase since.
While no secret that the userbase has be declining over time it’s important to reflect on the userbase that is still engaging with the equipment across the world today. Google’s mission statement around the Cardboard has always been to give the VR experience to communities and people who may not otherwise be able to afford it and to this day, Cardboard is used within schools with popular software such as Expeditions to enrich learning environments. Making Cardboard open source gives a new lease of life to a product while taking the pressure off Google to maintain it. This seems like a win win.
For the more avid follower of the Cardboard, this move might have been seen in the company’s horizon as it’s not the Tech Giant’s first foray into the world of open source with the Cardboard. In 2015 they launched the Cardboard Manufacture Kit, a project that was released to enable third parties to build and design a VR compatible viewer using Google’s design. A project that was seen by critics and the general public as a success.
But what exactly does the Cardboard being open source mean for developers? What exactly is available to them with this release?
Included in the launch are libraries for both iOS and Android including basic VR features like APIs for head tracking, lens distortion rendering and input handling with the addition of an SDK package for Unity promised in the near future. Android developers are also being given access to Google’s QR code library meaning there is no need to have the Google Cardboard app installed on Android devices to use apps. This means that little to no contact needs to made with Google for Android developers, streamlining the process for developers and alleviating the work load for Google.
When we asked our lead developer, Tommy Pickersgill, who remarked that
” Cardboard was responsible for the resurgence of VR in the public sphere. The software was game changing and having this software accessible will help developers not just carry on the VR renaissance but take it further than it’s ever been before.”
There is a discussion surrounding this announcement debating whether this is a marker for the end of mobile VR. With over 15 million VR units sold and given away by Google alone, it would be unfair to suggest that this is the end of the road for Cardboard as there was such a massive demand for it when it launched and there is definitely a buzz around the potential of mobile VR again with the software becoming open source. So, while the Cardboard may not be the same creation we were faced with four years ago, it is certainly about to come into its renaissance.