Facebook, HTC and Microsoft have made investments in the future of VR with their respective augmented reality and virtual reality devices: the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and HoloLens, and it looks like Google is set to play catch up in 2016.
The search giant has reportedly formed its own dedicated division focused solely on virtual reality. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has put Clay Bavor, the company’s vice-president of product management, at the helm of the project.
In the past, Bavor managed key Google applications like Gmail, Drive and Docs. Bavor has been pulled from these projects to focus solely on Google’s new virtual reality related ambitions, and Diane Greene, who joined Google in November to handle the company’s enterprise operations, has taken over the vice-president of product management position.
Google’s only entry into the virtual reality space so far is Cardboard, a low cost virtual reality headset designed to be a simple introduction to the concept of virtual reality. In the U.S., Google has launched distribution programs designed to encourage schools to use Cardboard as a teaching tool in classrooms, and the company also reached an agreement with the New York Times that gives print subscribers free Cardboards.
It’s unclear exactly what Google’s new virtual reality division will be working on, but it’s likely the buzz surrounding HTC’s Vive and Facebook’s Oculus Rift encouraged the tech giant to take the emerging technology more seriously.
Google recently lead a $542 million funding round for Magic Leap, an augmented reality startup.