Google is putting a lot of its virtual reality focus right now on its Daydream VR framework, but today Amit Singh, the company’s VP of VR, also gave an update on its earlier (and still active) effort in the area, Google Cardboard. He said that to date the company has shipped 10 million Cardboard VR sets, and it has seen 160 million downloads of Cardboard apps, with 30 individual Cardboard apps downloaded at least 1 million times each.
The comments were made on stage at Mobile World Congress at Barcelona, where Singh is speaking today (see picture above).
It’s an interesting milestone and shows that even while Google is pushing the next iteration of its VR efforts with Daydream to hit a wider range of devices and users — Daydream-compatible mobile handsets can be turned into VR headsets (when inserted into an accessory to mount it on your head) — the very pared-down, free first version Cardboard continues to show momentum. It was only in July of last year that Google said it had hit 5 million headsets shipped since it first launched in 2014.
He also gave an update on Daydream, which Singh described as a “more immersive” experience than Cardboard and the result of what Google has learned from the first product. He said people using Daydream-ready phones/headsets are watching about 40 minutes per week. There are now six phones and 100 Daydream apps to explore on the market, he noted.
Well over 50% of all content consumption on Daydream is of YouTube content, Singh said, and it’s going to put more focus now on providing more premium (professional not necessarily paid) content on the platform in the form of series.
“You will start to see significant series coming out this year,” Singh said. He said that there have been over 1 million views of an NFL series in the U.S. Now in Europe Google has partnered with Sky VR, he announced today, a VR initiative from Europe’s dominant pay-TV provider.
“Sky VR is coming to Daydream,” he said. Initial content will include both primary films and original series, as well as supplementary programs, Singh noted. Some will be a red carpet show for Star Wars, clips from the Jungle Book, and Sky Sports experiences with personalities like David Beckham and sports like Formula One. Other premium content partners on the Daydream platform include Hulu, Netflix and HBO.
In a separate blog post published after Singh’s stage appearance, Google also noted some new content for Tango, Google’s augmented reality platform. The Sims app now will let you travel around the Sims house; the Chelsea Kicker app will make a Chelsea football player appear in front of you for a selfie or to show you a trick with the ball; and (perhaps less exciting and more Minority Report) an AR app from the WSJ will let you visualise stock trends in midair.
I’ll be speaking to Singh later today and will update this post with more of his thoughts.
Updated with AR detail from blog post made public after initial story was published.