Google is getting ready to move beyond cardboard: The Internet giant is working on a more advanced mobile virtual reality (VR) headset that would compete directly with Samsung’s Gear VR, according to a report from the Financial Times.
The new headset reportedly includes better lenses and actual sensors to deliver a better viewing experience than Google’s existing Cardboard headsets. And unlike the cheap Cardboard viewers, which are routinely given away, the new headset would also be made from a solid plastic casing — again similar to Samsung’s Gear VR headset.
Google first released its cardboard headsets at its Google I/O developer conference in 2014. At the time, many assumed that it was just a joke; a way for Google to poke fun at Facebook for spending $2 billion on its Oculus acquisition.
But Cardboard has since become a serious endeavor for the company: Google and its partners have shipped more than 5 million Cardboard VR viewers to consumers. Developers have released over a thousand Cardboard-compatible VR apps on Google’s Play store, and consumers have installed these kinds of apps more than 25 million times.
Those numbers are no laughing matter, and they put Google in direct competition with Samsung and Facebook-owned Oculus, which is operating the app store for Samsung’s Gear VR. A higher-end mobile VR headset would only intensify this competition.
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Google has doubled down on VR in recent months, officially making former products VP Clay Bavor the leader of its VR group. The company also recently hired Vine head Jason Toff to work on virtual reality projects.