Cardboard in 2022, the outcast of the VR industry

If you open Baidu Cardboard in 2022, you will find that it has been occupied by advertisements and spam. In the desolation, a post published in 2017 is full of sadness: The Google carton era is over, VR yuan The year 2016 has also passed.

Now, in the midst of the clamor of the metaverse concept, looking back at how this pre-VR product was born, how it died out, and what role it played in the entire history of VR, may give us some insight into the entire history of VR. Think more about the industry.

Time back on May 19, 2014, at the I/O developer conference, Google launched Google Cardboard, a humble headset made up of lenses, magnets, devil felt and rubber bands, allowing people to use a A very low-cost experience of VR content.

Two months later, Meta (formerly Facebook) bought VR headset maker Oculus for $2 billion. The following year, the entire VR industry ushered in a big explosion. Microsoft released the MR headset Hololens in January, and HTC and Valve jointly developed the HTC Vive in March.

Google Cardboard is like a butterfly that has set off a storm, which has ignited the enthusiasm for VR in the entire technology circle, but Google itself began to be a little undecided. It was not until 2016 that the second-generation mobile VR headset Daydream View was officially launched, but at that time the entire VR headset The industry has begun to head for a cold winter, and Google got up early to catch a late episode.

Today, Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 has sold nearly 10 million, accounting for three-quarters of the global market share. Sony, Pico, and HTC are waiting for the opportunity behind it, but Google, the former pathfinder, is not seen. Looking back, there may be only a sigh left for Google VR engineers.

1. What is Cardboard?

Before 2014, VR technology was still relatively unpopular, and there were almost no mature hardware products on the market, but smartphones were in a stage of rapid development, so two Google engineers, based on the idea of ​​convenience and ease of use, took smartphones as prototype devices Created Google Cardboard.

Obviously, this is Google’s test of the water in the field of VR. Google engineers David Coz and Damien Henry designed the product in only 6 months.

The whole device is a combination of lenses, magnets, devil felt and rubber bands. After inserting a smartphone into it and opening the related app, users can watch VR videos and games. Because of the simple and easy-to-obtain production materials, Google even provides parts lists, schematics, and assembly instructions for free on its website, encouraging people to assemble themselves with readily available parts.

The production cost is very low, allowing anyone to make their own VR headset based on the drawings published by Google, which is very helpful to the popularization of VR technology. At the beginning of 2016, Cardboard achieved sales of 5 million. By 2017, Google had sold 10 million sets of Google Cardboard, and related applications had been downloaded 160 million times.

Of course, the shortcomings of Cardboard are also very obvious. The low production cost corresponds to the rudimentary hardware. Many users say that after playing for less than 5 minutes, they will start to feel dizzy and need to rest for a while before continuing to play.

Therefore, there was a voice in the industry at that time: Real VR may not be what Google Cardboard looks like.

2. Google’s pioneering and lost

It was originally a game made by Google unintentionally, but it caused an amazing market reaction. Many technology giants saw an opportunity in it, but Google itself gradually got lost in it.

At the same time that Google launched Cardboard, Oculus, HTC, Sony and other companies were deeply cultivating full-featured VR headsets. By the time Google launched the second-generation embedded VR headset DayDream View in 2016, HTC’s all-in-one VR headset HTC Vive had been on the market for more than a year. , Oculus’ consumer PC VR headset, the Oculus Rift, just launched, and Sony’s PlayStation VR is on the way.

In 2016, known as the first year of VR, almost all giant companies are moving in the direction of PC VR and all-in-one VR. Only Google is still immersed in the fantasy of mobile phone embedded VR headsets, for which Google even provides supporting The mobile VR platform Daydream was developed to enhance the user experience, and the foreshadowing of the story was laid.

From 2017 to 2018, with the arrival of PC VR and VR all-in-one consoles, the sales of mobile VR, represented by DayDream View, dropped sharply. According to Super Data data, Google’s Daydream View sales in 2016 were still 260,000 units, and in 2017, it dropped to 150,000 units. During the same period, PS VR sales were 1.69 million units, Oculus Rift sales were 320,000 units, and in 2018, Daydream View even sold 1.69 million units. Off the list.

In 2019, Google directly stated that its latest flagship phone, the Pixel 4 series, no longer supports its own Daydream mobile VR platform. The Daydream Viewer headset has also been discontinued, and the exploration of mobile VR Daydream has officially come to an end.

For such a bleak ending, Du Hongchao, founder of Yuantuo and an IT veteran, commented: Google is a great company most of the time because it rejects mediocre products. Unfortunately, the core reason why the Google Box ended up almost without success was precisely the fact that it succumbed to mediocre cost logic.

3. Tears of the Times

Choice is more important than effort, and most of the time, the same holds true for tech giants like Google.

Looking back at Google’s VR road, it first popularized VR products through cheap and simple Cardboard, and initially popularized it among users, then built an application ecosystem around smartphones, and then iteratively upgraded hardware and platforms. There are rules and regulations for each step. , It has a firm mind, but it is self-sufficient in direction, and does not extend to a more professional all-in-one machine.

Shi Jun, Deputy Secretary-General of Chengdu Virtual and Augmented Reality Industry Association, believes that the advantages of Cardboard are that it is convenient to experience and easy to carry, and it is also a manual work in many schools. The disadvantage is that it depends on the performance of the mobile phone, the resolution is low, and the fast-moving scene feels dizzy. However, this cardboard box has created some business operations in China that use mobile phones as the carrier shell, and made a lot of money in 2016. After all, the cost was less than 20 yuan and it was sold on the C-side for more than 300 yuan.

According to industry insiders, even in the industry environment in 2014, Cardboard is a very rough VR product, and the experience it can bring to users is very limited. Its short-sightedness and cognitive dislocation in the direction of VR technology paved the way for it to fall behind in the future high-level industry competition.

Shen Haoran, founder of Ha Shiqi and president of the Metaverse AR|VR Association, said: Google’s glasses box, as a representative of early VR glasses, makes people feel like they can’t love it. It is folded from a cardboard box, and two small convex lenses are added. It looks a little rough and cheap, and its actual experience is almost the lower limit of the VR glasses box at that time.

Cardboard developer David Coz has said that Cardboard is a project that came at the right time.

At that time, 2016, known as the first year of VR, had not yet arrived, and there were still four years before the release of Quest 2, which established the status of the Meta industry, and the Metaverse had not yet become a topic in the streets. The historical significance and industry role of alternatives. Even today, its affordable price of 100 yuan still helps many users experience VR for the first time.

Eight years have passed since the release of Cardboard, the Google carton era has become a distant past, the entire industry has become increasingly mature and complex, and hardware, software, content and industry standards have all achieved unprecedented development. We believe that there will continue to be revolutionary VR products coming at the right time in the future, and they will together form part of the human technological journey.

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