Cardboard is downright ubiquitous these days. It packages a host of items and protects items during shipping, whether packed at the business or packed at home, and once it gets home, it serves a variety of purposes from storage to kindling. While this may sound like rambling, it's also proving to be one of the most popular new releases from Google (News - Alert) in some time. Specifically, we're talking about Google Cardboard, Google's answer to the Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) system which has so far shipped over 500,000 units since its release.
Google Cardboard has already proven such a hit that, not only has Google sent out a massive number of such systems, but has even stepped up the Google Play Store app shop with a specific set of apps for the device. Said Collections page already has 25 apps on hand to work with Google Cardboard, and there will likely be more to follow.
Naturally, the overall rise of VR since its early days in the 1990s brought about some of the interest in this, but Google also developed some promotional methods to help drive that interest, with a stop at the LA Auto Show back in November helping to spark interest. At that event, Google Cardboard allowed attendees to take virtual test drives of some of the newest models on the track. Plus, major musical figures like Jack White and Paul McCartney also have offered up a set of musical apps specifically designed for use on Cardboard.
While it's the Oculus Rift that has captured imaginations and interest almost since its first announcement—followed up by the Samsung (News - Alert) Gear VR, which was developed as part of a partnership arrangement with Oculus—the Google Cardboard system has one particular advantage: it's available, and has been for some time. The Gear VR only recently came available, and there's still little in the way of dates as to when the Oculus Rift will make its appearance, so for now Google Cardboard appears to be taking advantage of a massive amount of interest coupled with an almost shocking lack of product in the field to take advantage of said interest. That's a formula that's tailor-made for success for some firm, and for now, it looks like Google is the firm in question that's getting the success. Still, this may prove to be a short-lived success. While there's certainly a value here, Google Cardboard has essentially the same failing as Samsung Gear VR, in that both are dependent on a smartphone for operation. That's going to likely prove somewhat limiting to the concept overall, especially when users can't hook it to a game console, computer, or home theater system, inherently limiting the use cases for such an operation. While it's still entirely possible to play games and watch movies on a smartphone, there might well be a bit of a loss translating from the fact that users likely won't be able to play Skyrim on such devices, or enjoy the same kind of audio performance—and even potentially video resolution—that an Oculus Rift might be able to offer home theater users.
Still, Google Cardboard is proving that there's plenty of interest in the VR platform, regardless of what kind of hardware it takes to run it. While that may not prove to be the thing that keeps Google Cardboard in the fight, it's certainly enough to get it started, and an edge in the market taken early may be enough to keep it around.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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