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Google may have canned Daydream VR and poured cold water on both its Cardboard viewers and VR SDK, but it doesn’t want to see the “no-frills, accessible-to-everyone” VR project go to waste. So the company today announced that it’s open-sourcing Cardboard’s software in hopes that third-party developers will continue to support the platform and its apps.

This isn’t the first Cardboard-related open source initiative, as the company previously released manufacturing specs for the inexpensive headset to third-party developers in an effort to promote widespread adoption of the viewer technology. Now Google is releasing iOS and Android libraries to support Cardboard features such as head tracking, lens distortion rendering, and input handling, as well as an Android QR code library so viewers can pair with apps without using Google’s own Cardboard app. Rather than abandoning Cardboard to others, the company also promises to back the project with its own contributions of new features, including a Unity-ready SDK package.

While millions of Cardboard viewers were given away and sold — 15 million, according to the company’s latest estimate — smartphone-based VR has been supplanted by standalone and higher-end devices. Outside of educational applications, interest in smartphone VR accessories is now all but non-existent, in large part due to growing interest in alternatives such as Facebook’s Oculus Quest and Sony’s PlayStation VR.

Google’s hope is that developers will take up the cause of updating Cardboard’s hardware and software for the myriad handsets and display resolutions that are being used by modern smartphones. Screens have only continued to increase in size and pixel density since the original versions of Cardboard launched, making the task of creating a one-size-fits-all viewer more challenging.


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If you’re interested in exploring the software side of the Cardboard project, check out Google’s new developer documentation and GitHub repository for the source code. The Cardboard Manufacturer Kit also remains available for building compatible VR viewers.


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