Google Lays New Groundwork to Spread Adoption of VR and AR

Virtual reality and augmented reality each received plenty of attention on stage during Google's I/O developer conference. The company has new hardware on deck while it looks to ensure the two types of content are available from within more apps both on and off the web.

Google has big plans for virtual reality and augmented reality, but they are moving forward slowly. The two main thrusts include Daydream for VR and Tango for AR, both of which are going to be more immersive and powerful thanks to new developer tools.

The most significant advancement for developers is what Google calls Instant Preview. Through it, developers can make changes to their VR app on their PC and see those changes reflected through their VR headset within seconds, rather than minutes. Google says this is made possible thanks to a new rendering technology it calls Seurat (named after the French painter.) "[Seurat] uses some clever tricks to help you achieve desktop-level graphics or better with a mobile GPU," said Google. Seurat and Instant Preview aren't final, and Google says more information will be available later this year.

Google announced Daydream at I/O last year. Since its debut, the nascent virtual reality platform launched via the dedicated Daydream View headset and about eight modern Android smartphones. Today, Google announced Daydream 2.0 Euphrates. Google says Euphrates is primarily meant to help push Daydream to new devices and new apps.

For example, the company is working with HTC, Asus, and Lenovo to create stand-alone Daydream viewers that don't require an attached smartphones. Google insists this will be a better overall experience. "They’re easy to use, and the form factor enables partners to optimize things like sensors and displays for VR. And with more than 150 apps, there’s lots to explore, watch and do in VR, regardless of which Daydream-ready device you choose," explained Google in a blog post.

Perhaps more importantly, virtual reality is about to become more social. To start, Google is expanding the type of content available through YouTube VR. People will soon be able to watch VR content together, from the comfort of their own home, and participate live in comment streams via VR. Daydream gains compatibility with Google Cast, too, which will let people push the VR content from their headset to their TV.

Google first introduced Web VR earlier this year, and today took the next step by announcing Chrome for Android will support VR throughout. Web VR makes it possible for developers to create web-based VR apps. VR in Chrome for Android will bring the entire browsing experience to virtual reality headsets. Google is distributing a new version of Chromium and AR API so developers can check out some of the tools involved.

As for Tango, the augmented reality solution, Google says it has lots of new things in store. The Virtual Positioning Service is the most likely to draw oohs and aahs. Using the 3D cameras on a Project Tango handset, VPS can record everything around it with accuracy down to the centimeter. Google used it to map several museums and and Lowe's is using it to map its own retail stores. Once areas are mapped, VPS and Tango will be able to direct people and their Tango-capable handsets to specific places indoors just as GPS works outdoors. VPS is still in the words and not quite ready for developers to use. 

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.

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