Virtual reality or virtual realities (VR), also known as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality, is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence and environment in a way that allows the user to interact with it. Virtual realities artificially create sensory experience, which can include sight, touch, hearing, and smell.
“Virtual Reality“, generally termed as VR is an entire content track at Google I/O this year, with seven sessions dedicated to virtual or augmented reality. The most ominous session is titled “Google’s Vision for Virtual Reality.” The session description is a single sentence, promising to cover “what we have built, what we have learned, and where we are headed.” Google I/O session descriptions are usually a full paragraph, so the ones with really vague, short session descriptions suggest that Google is trying to avoid spoilers. Clay Bavor, the head of Google’s new “Virtual Reality” division, will lead the talk.
I/O 2016 (Virtual Reality) : Google is slowly building up a large presence in Virtual Reality. The company already makes a Virtual Reality painting app called “Tilt Brush,” which our own Sam Machkovech called a “killer app” for the HTC Vive. It supports “Virtual Reality Videos” on YouTube with 3D, 360-degree video formats. Google Cardboard is the company dipping its toes into the Virtual Reality space with the cheapest possible platform—a smart phone in a cardboard box. It acquired Thrive Audio, a positional 3D audio company, and has integrated some VR features into the latest version of Android N. Inside the company, some of the most important employees have moved to the VR team, like the former lead designer of Google Search, Jon Wiley, and Alex Faaborg, the former lead designer for Firefox, Google Now, and Android Wear. And supposedly this is just the tip of the iceberg. Google is rumored to be building a VR interface for Android, a standalone VR headset, a Gear VR competitor, and custom So Cs aimed at VR and AR.
Several other sessions are dedicated to Project Tango, Google’s 3D-sensing augmented-reality capable smart phone. The company already announced the Lenovo would be building the first consumer Project Tango device, with a release in “Summer 2016.” Judging by the I/O schedule, we’ll take a guess and say that Lenovo’s Project Tango phone will be the I/O freebie device that all the developers get to take home.
Virtual Reality Talks: At I/O, there’s a “What’s New with Project Tango” session that promises to “explore the vision of Project Tango and how it will come to life with the launch of our first consumer phone.” That sounds like we’ll at least get a live demo of what the Lenovo hardware looks like and what it can do. The “Introducing Project Tango Area Learning” talk says the device can “remember the space around you.” Tango’s sensors can scan a room and create a 3D model. By saving this information, developers will be able to “attach virtual objects to the world,” and “design multiplayer experiences and know the exact location of each player.”
There’s a whole Tango session dedicated to gaming called “6 Degree of Freedom Gaming in Android with Project Tango,” and there will be a “Project Tango Developer Panel” where people can fire questions at experienced Tango developers.
As for Android, there will still be the usual crowd pleasers “What’s new in Android” and “What’s new in Android development tools,” but with the launch of the Android N Developer Preview in March, we aren’t expecting many surprises.