Google is planning to jump into the virtual reality software game in a big way, the Wall Street Journal said today. The company is said to have “tens of engineers” working on a new project to build a VR platform based on the Android operating system. Like the smartphone version of Android, Google’s VR software will reportedly be available for free to hardware makers.
The virtual reality hardware market is growing at a speedy pace, started by Facebook’s purchase of Oculus last year. Oculus and Samsung teamed up to create a VR headset late last year, and smartphone manufacturer HTC partnered with gaming company Valve to build their own device called the Vive. Each of these devices run their own proprietary software.
Google, however, wants to change that fact by providing software that can be run on any headset to power virtual reality applications, just as it as for smartphones with Android and smartwatches with Android Wear. Of course, the success of the project will depend on how enthusiastically VR headsets are adopted by the public.
There’s also some work being done on VR hardware. Specifically, a separate team inside Google is in the process of creating a tablet with dual cameras equipped that can “project” virtual items onto images from the real world, similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens project, but in tablet form.
The company’s Android VR development team is reportedly headed up by Jeremy Doig and Clay Bavor, the latter of whom helped develop the Cardboard VR headset that was given away during last year’s I/O conference. Google has also lost a few of its employees to the competition over at Oculus in the past few months.