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Google Cardboard open sourced as active development on Google VR SDK stops

Last month, Google stopped selling Daydream View as modern Android phones — including the Pixel 4 — lack support. The company’s mobile virtual reality offerings are being further diminished today as Google Cardboard gets open sourced.

The Cardboard open source project lets the “developer community continue to build Cardboard experiences and add support to their apps for an ever increasing diversity of smartphone screen resolutions and configurations.”

We think that an open source model—with additional contributions from us—is the best way for developers to continue to build experiences for Cardboard.

Google noted how overall Cardboard usage has declined, and revealed that it’s “no longer actively developing the Google VR SDK” powering Cardboard and Daydream. That said, there is “consistent usage around entertainment and education experiences,” like YouTube and virtual field trips with Expeditions. To “ensure that Cardboard’s no-frills, accessible-to-everyone approach to VR remains available,” the company is turning to the open source community.

Specifically, Google is releasing libraries that will allow “developers to build their Cardboard apps for iOS and Android and render VR experiences on Cardboard viewers.” There will be some direct contributions going forward, including a SDK package for Unity.

The open source project provides APIs for head tracking, lens distortion rendering and input handling. We’ve also included an Android QR code library, so that apps can pair any Cardboard viewer without depending on the Cardboard app.

Cardboard started as an I/O giveaway and Mattel even created a modern View-Master out of it. While there will be no meaningful new features from Google, Cardboard’s legacy as a way to experience basic VR with just a phone is still remarkable and helped democratize the technology. The Google Store continues to sell viewers for $15.

From a giveaway at Google I/O to more than 15 million units worldwide, Cardboard has played an important role in introducing people to VR through experiences like YouTube and Expeditions. In many cases, it provided access to VR to people who otherwise couldn’t have afforded it.

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: