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Google Puts Big Emphasis On Virtual Reality At I/O Conference

What a difference two years can make: When Google introduced its Cardboard virtual reality (VR) headset at its I/O developer conference in 2014, many considered it a joke. A cheap way to poke fun at Facebook for spending $2 billion on Oculus that same spring.

Fast forward to 2016, and it’s clear that VR is no laughing matter at Google. The latest evidence is the schedule for Google I/O 2016, which will be held in Mountain View, California next month, and feature seven sessions focused on VR and augmented reality technologies. These include both tech sessions as well one about VR and cinema led by the company’s own cinematic VR expert Jessica Brillhart.

As a comparison: There are currently only two sessions scheduled for developers interested in Google’s living room devices, including Chromecast and Android TV. To be fair, Google is often changing the schedule of the event last-minute to account for unannounced projects and other changes, but the now-publisher version clearly shows that VR will be a major subject.

What’s more, Google is clearly anticipating a huge interest in VR. A session about Google’s VR strategy — tag-lined “what we have built, what we have learned, and where we are headed” — is scheduled for the main stage of the Amphitheater in Mountain View, the same place that is being used for the  Google I/O opening keynote.

Also notable: Google is getting ready to talk more about Project Tango, its augmented reality efforts that were officially incubated as part of the company’s ATAP R&D unit. Project Tango combines virtual objects with the real world, and it could be key to the company’s VR efforts.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai left no doubts that the company is serious about VR during the company’s Q1 earnings call this week, where he called VR “our newest platform.”

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