You might have thought that rumours of a brand new mobile-based VR HMD from Google would spell the end of its Cardboard concept, but you’d be wrong.
Just a week out from this year’s Google I/O developer conference, Google has started to sell official Cardboard units in more territories. It started to sell the device itself back in February in the US, but now has an official store for the UK, Canada, France and Germany. The UK store offers the basic Cardboard design for £15, though you can also save £5 on two units in a £25 bundle. Of course, we’ve been able to buy units manufactured by third parties for years now, if not making one ourselves, but this gives us an official outlet.
The basic Cardboard unit is about as low-end as VR gets but, crucially, as affordable as it gets too. Providing you have a compatible smartphone, you’re just £15 away from hundreds of VR apps, including some major projects like the VR support found in Google’s own YouTube Android app.
This certainly suggests that Google isn’t dropping its support for the Cardboard ecosystem going into I/O, despite the constant speculation that this will be where we see the company’s brand new HMD. Rumours suggest that this will be an entirely independent device with all of its computing done on-board, removing the need for any smartphone. Yesterday it also appeared that Epic Games leaked another long-rumoured concept in Android VR, so you can expect to see plenty of VR news from the company when I/O kicks off on May 18th.
Even if these rumours are true, it’s easy to see a world in which both Cardboard and this new device can co-exist. The latter would presumably offer a much more high-end experience than Cardboard, perhaps enticing some of the developers that have created content for the Gear VR over to the platform, while it still enjoys the wide range of apps already made for Google Cardboard. Still, that’s all completely speculative on our part; you’ll have to watch I/O for yourself and keep an eye on our coverage to find out what the company is really planning.