​Google reportedly building Android for virtual reality hardware

Mobile OS Android to be morphed into a platform for virtual reality applications?

Google is reportedly working on a new version of Android, turning the mobile OS into a platform for virtual reality.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google has a small team of engineers working on a version of Android for virtual reality apps to run on.

The project is speculative given the relative paucity of VR hardware on sale at the moment, but according to the WSJ's sources, Google has "tens" of people working on the VR project, which is being led by Google's VP of product management Clay Bavor and director of engineering Jeremy Doig.

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If the project is a goer, it will see Google following in Facebook's footsteps: the social network acquired Oculus Rift for $2bn last year. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time that Oculus Rift has the potential to be the "next major computing platform", spurred on by mass-produced components and cheaper headsets.

Oculus has teamed up with Samsung on the development of its $250 Gear VR headset, which runs on Oculus' mobile SDK and firmware and includes the Oculus Home interface for accessing content. The headset, however, only works with the Galaxy Note 4.

As the WSJ notes, the new VR version of Android would be freely distributed to OEMs just as Android is for smartphones, tablets, and wearables.

Google's Bavor helped create Google Cardboard, the cheap cardboard-based VR viewer. The cardboard app has been installed on at least one million Android smartphones.

Google was also the lead investor in a $542m funding round for Magic Leap, a startup developing an augmented reality system that projects 3D objects onto scenes such as the palm of your hand.

ZDNet has asked Google for comment and will update the story if it receives one.

VR hardware was the star of this year's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco with headsets from Sony under its Project Morpheus and Valve with its SteamVR. HTC this month also took the wraps off its VR headset, Vive, teaming up with Google, HBO and Steam for content.

Microsoft has also been investigating the VR space of late, unveiling its Hololens headset at a Windows 10 event earlier this year.

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