Google brings VR to the masses with broader Cardboard app availability

After 15 million downloads of Cardboard apps, Google is improving the SDK for developers while also bringing the virtual reality app to more countries in additional languages on the cheap.

When Google gave away its Cardboard VR goggles at the company's 2014 developer event, I passed it by. Now I see what a mistake that was as I'll have to order my own because Cardboard is more popular than I imagined: Google says 15 million Cardboard apps have been downloaded.

To help expand the reach of its inexpensive virtual reality product, Google is making Cardboard more broadly available. The Cardboard app is now available in 39 languages and in more than 100 countries.

Google knows it has a potential hit platform on its hands, particularly since the Cardboard viewer can easily be had for $20 or less. Heck, you can even download a ZIP file with plans to cut and build your own Cardboard viewer. And earlier this year, Google expanded access by introducing Cardboard support on iOS.

To help improve Cardboard-capable apps, Google has updated the SDK as well. It now handles drift correction and improves Unity performance for devs that use it. Google says the update is a "major overhaul of the sensor fusion algorithms that integrate the signals from the gyroscope and accelerometer" to reduce drive on devices with lower-quality sensors.

streetview-vr.png

While third-party developers will bring new virtual reality experiences with the toolkit, Google itself is doing what it can to promote the platform: The company says that its 3D Street View feature in maps now works with Google Cardboard so you can explore locations as if you were there.

If that's not magic that will appeal to the smartphone-toting masses for the cost of a decent lunch, I don't know what is.

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