Report: Google Crafting Android for Virtual Reality AppsReport: Google Crafting Android for Virtual Reality Apps
Google has put together a team of special engineers to build a version of Android to work with virtual reality applications, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
March 11, 2015
The report, which relies on two sources “familiar with the project,” said Google has staffed the initiative with “tens of engineers,” to build out the operating system, which the vendor intends to distribute free of charge. Virtual reality hardware and apps, while confined to embryonic shipment numbers to this point, nonetheless hold huge promise across multiple settings and industries.
And, the market is beginning to heat up, with some big names stepping in. Microsoft (MSFT) has entered with its HoloLens device, as have Samsung with its Gear VR headset and Sony with its Project Morpheus headset. VR development is taking place at dozens of startups.
If the Journal’s report is accurate, Google’s virtual reality OS would position it squarely in competition with Facebook (FB), which recently snapped up headset maker Oculus for $2 billion, in a move underscoring Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s contention that virtual reality is computing next’s wide-scale platform following mobile.
Facebook recently hired Mary Lou Jepsen, a high-profile Google X executive, to work on Oculus.
According to the Journal, Google’s Clay Bavor, a Google product management vice president who’s worked on Google’s low-tech VR viewer Cardboard, and Jeremy Doig, a Google engineering director, are spearheading the project.
Were Google to come forward with an Android for VR operating system, it would mark the vendor’s fifth targeted version, adding to smartphones, wearables, televisions and automobiles. Still, at this point the venture can’t be considered anything beyond a trial balloon, both to see how the market progresses and how, specifically, the vendor’s small army of engineers will craft the OS to fit user needs.
Last October, Google participated in a $542 million Series B funding round in Magic Leap, a Florida-based startup building a VR “lightweight wearable” that combines visual ability with mobile computing. Other investors included KPCB, Andreessen Horowitz, Obvious Ventures, Qualcomm (QCOM) and Legendary Entertainment.
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