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The Daydream is over: Google open-sources Cardboard VR kit

Google Cardboard

RIP, phone-based virtual reality

Google has announced that it is open sourcing the software for its Cardboard virtual reality headset.

The move comes in the wake of October’s news that Google would be discontinuing its Daydream View VR kit and cutting support for the platform with new handsets, effectively killing the company’s push for phone-based VR.

The Daydream might be dead, but the lo-fi Cardboard will have a continued life with developers, as Google has made its software development kit available. This joins the Cardboard’s hardware specifications (i.e., printing instructions), which are already free to download.

In a blogpost, Jeffrey Chen, Google’s product manager for AR & vadmits to seeing Cardboard usage “decline over time”, and says that the company will no longer be actively developing the Google VR SDK.

“The open source project provides APIs for head tracking, lens distortion rendering and input handling,” writes Chen. “We’ve also included an Android QR code library, so that apps can pair any Cardboard viewer without depending on the Cardboard app.” He adds that Google will be “releasing new features” for the open source project, but doesn’t say what these could be besides an SDK package for Unity.

A few short years ago, phone-based VR was seen by some as the solution for a technology that has struggled to find a mass market foothold. Google’s bare bones Cardboard was a novel approach to VR hardware when it launched in 2014, and continued to stand out from the plastic sleekness of the Samsung Gear VR, as well as the PC-based Oculus Rift S and HTC Vive Cosmos.

Google might be cutting development for its VR SDK, but handing the keys to the wider developer community could still lead to some interesting projects. If you’re intrigued, you can download the source code via the Cardboard GitHub repo, and flick through Google’s developer documentation.