Google Makes Bigger ‘Jump’ into Virtual Reality

Intros VR Camera Rig, New ‘Cardboard’ Viewer
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Expanding on its plan to bring virtual reality to the mainstream, Google used its I/O developers conference in San Francisco to announce a series of VR projects, including a new version of Google Cardboard, the inexpensive cardboard-based viewer that can be paired to a smartphone. 

Google introduced Google Cardboard last year. With the help of developers, there are now hundreds of Cardboard-compatible apps offered at Google Play, Clay Bavor, vice president for product management for Google VR, said. Google, which has distributed more than 1 million Cardboard viewers, has also expanded the platform to iOS, he said. 

As for the viewer, Google has improved it to support larger smartphones (screen sizes up to 6 inches) and quicker assembly – the new version will require three steps to build, versus the original 12. Google is also dumping the magnet controller used in the original viewer and swapped in a cardboard-based button that will work with all smartphones.  

Google has also expanded Cardboard apps to iOS and talked up “Expeditions,” a project that brings virtual field trips to classrooms.

Another Google-led VR project underway, called Jump, will enable consumers to produce and share VR videos. Google has developed a standardized a camera rig with an array that contains 16 camera modules. While consumers can use that blueprint to create their own VR rigs, GoPro has developed a Jump-ready camera array (pictured).

Tied in, Google has also created a VR assembler that takes those16 video feeds from the rig to recreate the scene in a VR-enabled stereoscopic view. That’s expected to be ready this summer.

Google will use YouTube as a platform for Jump users to share and watch Jump video, and that capability will also be ready by this summer, Bavor said.