Virtual Reality used to be something which technologically was out of reach for many, Google turned that on its head with the coming of its Google Cardboard platform which debuted at I/O14 last year, and now again with the revamp of the Cardboard unit at this year's I/O15 conference. While not the most advanced VR unit on the planet, it offers a relatively easy to come by platform for anyone who has interest in developing for or playing with virtual reality apps. Google is also looking to make the world of virtual reality more open, something which they've displayed when they announced their "Works with Google Cardboard" program to make things easier for developers and headset manufacturers to create VR experiences and hardware.
While Google is working to expand the nature of uses for its VR technology utilizing tech like the 360 camera rigs they're partnering with GoPro to make, Google is also bringing use of virtual reality into the classroom through the Expeditions program. Cardboard is, compared to other VR offerings like the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, an insanely inexpensive unit. With Cardboard being so cheap and Google looking to put VR into the hands of anyone who can spare less than $30, will their willingness to make VR an easily attainable technology hurt other competing technology like the Gear VR?
On one hand, things like Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR offer much more than Google Cardboard ever could, at least for now, as they strap to the head and fit securely for a hands-free design, not to mention the type of developer support that is behind both platforms for creating content. Because of the way users would wear VR units like Gear VR on their head, their hands are free leaving them open to control movement for games and such whether it be with a connected controller or via the touchpad. On the other hand, Google Cardboard is still evolving and could eventually end up with a similar design allowing users to wear it and be hands-free, not having to hold the headset, while still being much cheaper than other tech. While it seems like people might opt for the cheaper experience which also supports infinitely more devices then something like Gear VR, Cardboard and more advanced units like Gear VR technically aim for different markets, so Cardboard is more likely to help drive innovation than hurt the competition. Likewise, Gear VR and Oculus Rift, as well as other units like the HTC Vive seemingly do the same for Cardboard. Virtual Reality is going to continue expanding this year, and it's going to be exciting.