After continually dipping its corporate toe in the waters of immersive entertainment over the last couple of years, Google is finally committing to VR (and by turns AR) by appointing former VP of Product Clay Bavor to head up Google’s virtual reality push.
There’s no doubt that Google’s Cardboard initiative has had a significant impact on virtual reality’s visibility as a technology platform over the last couple of years. Leaving aside accusations of such a variable quality initiative, which arguably aims at the low tide mark of virtual reality experience, the movement has had an impact, and that’s to Google’s credit.
But, momentum to push forward into the immersive space on Google’s part has been slow to build, with the search giant seemingly happy to watch as others like Facebook’s Oculus and Valve’s hardware partner HTC make real inroads into developing and launching consumer grade hardware this year. Yes, the company sank some heavy commitment into immersive video with its welcome Google Jump pipeline last year, but by any measures, Google has trailed in the technology stakes.
Now, that looks to be changing, as Re/Code reports that Google’s Clay Bavor will now concentrate solely on virtual reality for Google’s future roadmap. Bavor has been leading the company’s VR activities since last year, but continued with his other duties as VP of Product on Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, and others. Now he’s taken up the title VP of Virtual Reality, signaling his full fledged focus on VR and a greater emphasis on the technology on Google’s behalf.
We of course know that Google has poured a substantial sum of money into the secretive augmented reality technology Magic Leap, perhaps assuming its immersive tech bases were covered. But of course, virtual reality hits market in any meaningful way first, and Magic Leap, despite occasional target render footage and snippets of apparent realtime video, seems like a little way from hitting retail just yet.
So what next for Bavor and Google’s enhanced focus on VR? A dedicated focus to building a solid hardware platform would be a good start—specifically to set a minimum set of standards for phone manufacturers to hit, perhaps refreshed annually to match the rapid lifecycle of mobile phones.
Producing a flagship Android VR headset and phone combination would be an excellent way to lead the field and to set expectations, and this would surely fit nicely into the company’s ‘Nexus’ portfolio. Samsung’s Gear VR is of course Android based, with proprietary hardware and software solutions, but they prove what can be done with the operating system and that mobile VR can work.
We’ll see what happens, but it can only be a good thing for the VR industry to get such a major player as Google paying proper attention to a technology with so much potential.