Last year, the most exciting thing at Google I/O was a chunk of cardboard—cardboard which could transform any smartphone into an uber-cheap virtual reality headset. But Google isn’t stopping there. This year, the company will “announce some things around Cardboard that aren’t made of cardboard,” says Google’s Clay Bavor. Intriguing.
Clay Bavor was the guy in charge of product management and user experience for Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Apps. But a couple months back, the Wall Street Journal reported he’d found a new task: he would lead an effort to turn Android into an operating system for virtual reality.
I haven’t been able to officially confirm that. In fact, the last time I spoke to the Google Cardboard team, I couldn’t even get them to admit that they ever wanted to offer more than a taste of virtual reality. It seemed like Cardboard was all about bite-size experiences and super cheap headgear.
But today, I caught up with Bavor on the outskirts of the SVVR Expo in San Jose, California... and sure enough, Google’s ambitions for virtual reality are greater than that. Bavor says the original Cardboard was just the tip of the iceberg—the beginning of Google’s journey into the VR space. “Our ambitions don’t end there,” he assures me. He hints that though the original Cardboard was intentionally designed to be limited—without a headstrap to keep it on your head, and with a limited field of view—those limitations might not last.
How will Google shake up the virtual reality landscape at Google I/O on May 28th? I can’t say, but Bavor assures me that we’ll want to be there—and that the future of Google Cardboard won’t necessarily be corrugated paper.
(Earlier today, Fast Company reported that the lead designer of Google Search is also now part of the Google Cardboard team.)
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