Back in June 2014, Google first revealed Google Cardboard, a cheap virtual reality alternative that consisted of a cardboard box that can be folded into wearable glasses. It’s not meant for a fully immersive experience, but a cheap way to get some VR thrills without having to sink hundreds of dollars into actual hardware (outside the need for a smartphone, that is).
That said, a few job postings have appeared on Google revealing that the company may be working on dedicated VR hardware to rival the upcoming Oculus Rift headset. These jobs, discovered by RoadtoVR, were posted over the last several days and are looking for a Hardware Engineering Technical Lead Manager, VR, and a PCB Layout Engineer, VR. Currently, there are around seventeen job openings at Google that focus on virtual reality.
“As the Hardware Engineering Technical Lead Manager for the consumer hardware products, you will drive the design and execution of our ever increasing product portfolio,” reads the Hardware Engineering listing. “You will be responsible for the building multiple CE devices and will put together the right team that will scale with our product offering.”
News of the job openings arrive after Google’s VP for Product Management, Clay Bavor, apparently shifted focus at the company to manage Google’s virtual reality products. According to Re/code, Bavor has a new title at Google: VP of Virtual Reality. Serving Google for over ten years, his prior responsibilities included running apps like Gmail, Drive, Docs, and the company’s Cardboard product since its introduction two years ago.
Google isn’t the only company dashing to create a virtual reality product. The Financial Times reported last week that Apple hired a top virtual reality researcher, former Virginia Tech computer science professor Doug Bowman. So far there’s no indication of what Bowman will be doing at Apple, although his background points to the possibility of VR.
Bowman’s bio, listed on Virginia Tech’s website, shows that he served as the principal investigator of the 3D Interaction Group, focusing on the topics of “three-dimensional user interface design and the benefits of immersion in virtual environments.” Bowman’s bio also says that he served as the general chair of the IEEE Virtual Reality Conference in 2007 and 2008, and as the lead author of the book 3D User Interfaces: Theory and Practice.
Google and Apple’s move into “hardcore” virtual reality should come as no surprise. According to Goldman Sachs analysts, virtual reality and augmented reality could create an industry worth billions of dollars, and could be as “game changing” as the invention of the personal computer. VR headsets could possibly outsell desktop PCs, tablets, and televisions by 2025.
Goldman analysts expect Apple to fully participate in the AR/VR market in the near future. In a note to clients, they said that Apple is likely investigating the challenges of the tech and how consumers will want to interact with VR, before revealing its AR/VR hand to the public.