Google’s initial play with virtual reality couldn’t possibly have been any more basic: the company’s first headset was quite literally made from cardboard. But suggestions that the company is more serious about VR than Google Cardboard have been backed by a high-profile exec change within the company spotted by Fast Company.

Jon Wiley, the lead designer of Google Search, has transitioned to become lead designer of Google Cardboard […] Wiley’s Twitter profile reflects his new position, and Google confirmed the move, but declined to share details as to when or why it occurred, or who will replace Wiley in his former role. What’s clear is that Google has invested a major design talent in VR.

The WSJ reported in March that Google was working on a new project to build a VR platform based on the Android operating system which would be free for hardware manufacturers, and Google last month announced a ‘Works with Google Cardboard‘ program to unify third-party viewers … 

As FastCo‘s Mark Wilson points out, the part of VR that no-one has really tackled in a significant way is designing a decent user-interface. Without that, “it’s just a nice way to watch a movie.”

John Underkoffler, who came up with the imaginary UI for the SF thriller Minority Report agrees.

People are trying to invent the display part, and they’re not yet worrying properly about the UI. No one has a UI for it. So that puts VR pretty much in the position of being a playback mechanism.

If you were looking for someone to tackle that kind of challenge, the lead designer of the most widely-used computer system in the world – Google Search – would seem to be the perfect candidate. We’ll be watching with interest.

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