Google’s virtual reality (VR) team just hired the guy formerly in charge of content for Samsung’s Gear VR headset: Matt Apfel, who left Samsung in March after having worked as the company’s VP for VR Content, has joined Google VR, Variety has learned.
A Google spokesperson confirmed the hire, but declined to comment on Apfel’s role and title at the company.
Some of Apfel’s work at Samsung included content acquisition for Samsung’s Milk VR service, which is being used by the company to showcase documentary and cinematic VR content. The service’s most ambitious project to date has been “Gone,” a serialized virtual reality thriller produced by Skybound Entertainment and Wevr that allows viewers to switch back and forth between different vantage points.
Apfel’s hire comes at an interesting time for Google’s VR efforts: The company announced its own mobile VR platform dubbed Daydream in May. Instead of building a dedicated VR headset, Google is essentially adding VR capabilities to Android, and allowing Android handset makers to build their own Daydream-compatible phones.
Daydream will come with its own app store that will offer access to VR apps from third-party publishers. However, Google’s VR team has also been testing out a lot of VR content concepts as part of building Daydream, and it’s still unclear which role Google is exactly going to play for VR content.
One piece of that puzzle will be YouTube, which has been courting VR producers to upload 360-degree videos to its platform, and building out production tools for VR content as well. Then there is the Spotlight Stories team, which has been part of Google’s ATAP R&D unit, but may possibly be absorbed by the Daydream team. And finally, there is game development — an area that will play a big role for Daydream as well.
We’re going to see a lot more announcements on Google’s VR plans later this summer and going into fall, even beyond the company’s plans for virtual reality content. The first Daydream compatible phones are supposed to reach the market before the end of the year.