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At Google I/O, virtual reality push sets up future Facebook duel

The only certainty in virtual reality is that the primary head-to-head developer match-up will pit Google against Facebook along with Microsoft.

(Image: file photo)

Google's I/O developer conference will feature a heavy dose of virtual reality and ultimately set up a duel with Facebook's Oculus platform.

Perusing the Google I/O 2016 schedule it's clear the search giant has virtual reality on its mind. The agenda includes:

  • Engineering cinematic experiences in VR
  • VR at Google
  • Spatial Audio and Immersion--VR's Second Sense

Toss in Project Tango, a platform that uses computer vision so devices understand context and the environment around them, and Google's master plan becomes clear. Google is aiming to create ubiquitous virtual reality, cheap viewing devices (hello Cardboard) and contextual experience that'll include advertising.

TechRepublic: Google Cardboard: The smart person's guide

Combine updates to Android and perhaps even Android VR things are getting interesting. Keep it mind that Google's efforts may equate to be a big beta program. I see the potential for VR, but do wonder if it's some odd mix of 3D television, clunky hardware and Second Life (remember that?).

Special reports: VR and AR: The Business Reality | AI and the Future of Business | Also: Samsung's Gear VR surpasses 1 million user mark | YouTube gets a VR makeover with 360-degree live video, spatial audio | CNET: Welcome to VR Day at CNET HQ | Unity CEO: Maybe 2016 isn't really the 'year of VR' | TechRepublic: Forrester identifies top 5 VR and AR vendors, Oculus doesn't make the cut | 4 ways AR and VR will change the future of work

In other words, we don't know how the VR wars will play out. The only certainty is that VR's primary head-to-head matchup will pit Google against Facebook along with Microsoft. Perhaps Apple enters the game in the years ahead.

Facebook's Oculus platform has been getting a boost via Samsung's Gear VR headset, which recently passed the 1 million user mark.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, has a hefty does of VR in the company's 10-year roadmap.

"One reason VR is important is we're working on new social experiences. VR can be the most social platform," said Zuckerberg. "When we get to this world. A lot of the things we think about a physical thing like a TV will be $1 apps. It's going to take a while."

Facebook's view of VR looks like this:

facebook-future-vr-specs.png
facebook-vr-focus.png
(Image: file photo)

Google's outlook is likely to rhyme (sans the social) and what'll be interesting is how close the companies will be with their VR visions will turn out. With both the Facebook and Google developer conferences out of the way it'll be game on for VR.