Google Cardboard has existed for a couple of years now, and has been Google's way of getting users into virtual reality without forking over a ton of cash. You can typically pick up Cardboard for around $20 or less and it works with just about every Android smartphone out there. Over the past year, we've heard and seen through announcements by Google, that the company is getting serious about Virtual Reality. As are many other companies like Samsung, LG, and HTC to name a few. Now it looks like we may see something new coming next week at Google I/O.
Inside Unreal Engine 4.12 Preview 3, there's a change mentioning "AndroidVR". The preview mentions "UE-30404 Need to integrate engine changes in support of AndroidVR plugin to 4.12". Just based on that, it's tough to tell what exactly AndroidVR could be. This could be a totally new platform for virtual reality. Or it could just be a plugin for Cardboard to allow users to play virtual reality games in Cardboard. Although, where the changelog doesn't mention Google Cardboard, it's likely not the case. It's also worth noting that this is the first time AndroidVR has been mentioned in the Unreal Engine previews, and it's not related to GearVR at all.
We're unsure of what AndroidVR could really mean. But we will likely find out next week. Google I/O 2016 is taking place next week in Mountain View, CA. Google is expected to talk about Android, Virtual Reality, Chrome, Project Tango and a whole lot more. However it is going to be fun speculating what Google and perhaps the Android team have cooking with AndroidVR. Who knows, it could actually be a high-end virtual reality viewer like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, with Google keeping Cardboard around to be a lower-end and cheaper way of experiencing VR content.
Virtual reality appears to be the next big thing, as that is where most of the smartphone makers are turning to these days. LG, Samsung and HTC have their own virtual reality viewers, although they are all priced at different price points. And thus, offer different experiences to the user. Google I/O kicks off next Wednesday, May 18th.