[Update: Unity Plugin] Google open sources Cardboard so developers can build educative VR experiences in their apps
Last month, Google announced a handful of new products at the annual “Made by Google” event. However, one product was quietly discontinued: Daydream VR. The VR platform was not mentioned on the Pixel 4’s specification sheet and Google later confirmed the absence. Today, the company is making moves in VR to open source the once-popular Google Cardboard.
Like a lot of tech companies, Google was once bullish on the budding potential of VR. They created the Daydream VR platform that other companies could use to make VR headsets and even made their own hardware. Cardboard, on the other hand, was a quirky low-tech approach to VR, and it was probably more successful than Daydream. Google is now open-sourcing Cardboard.
Previously, Google made the technical specifications of the physical Cardboard “headset” available for anyone to download. Now they are taking the same approach on the software side of things. Developers are free to build new experiences for Cardboard and add support to their apps. Google will continue to make some contributions, most notably an SDK package for Unity.
We’re releasing libraries for developers to build their Cardboard apps for iOS and Android and render VR experiences on Cardboard viewers. The open source project provides APIs for head tracking, lens distortion rendering and input handling. We’ve also included an Android QR code library, so that apps can pair any Cardboard viewer without depending on the Cardboard app.
One thing that VR is still useful for is education and Google hopes this opens the door for more experiences in that area. To get started with the Cardboard open source project, head on over to the GitHub page or read the developer documentation. This is a cool move for anyone still interested in mobile VR, but it also shows how Google isn’t really invested in it anymore.
Update: Unity Plugin
Google ceased active development on Cardboard VR last November and open-sourced the project. At that time, the company said it would continue to make some contributions, including an SDK package for Unity. Today, Google makes good on that promise.
Google has released the Cardboard Unity SDK for users who prefer to develop in Unity. The open-source plugin for Unity is now available in the Unity Asset Store. Google is also providing a sample app for iOS and Android to aid developers in debugging their creations. The company says this is another step away from smartphone VR as they leave it in the hands of the community.