As someone who’s tried Google Cardboard, I am pretty keen to see this happening.
FOR ALL THERE is to love about Google Cardboard, it’s still a bare-bones experience. It’s barely even VR, really. But the cheap, smartphone-based viewer offers the VR-curious an easy window into 360-degree video. Pricier headsets like the Oculus Rift and Sony PlayStation VR, designed for gaming, deliver more than a cool stereoscopic viewing experience. In addition to the immersive visual eye-candy—users can explore virtual spaces, peek around corners, and, using hand-held controllers, interact with digital objects—these sophisticated VR rigs offer truly lifelike audio.
When a monster sneaks up on your left in a VR game, you’ll hear its slobbering tongue lashing at your left ear. When a shot comes at you from above you and slightly to the right, you know exactly where to return fire. When The Edge tears through the opening riff of “Mysterious Ways,” it reverberates around the stadium.
The high-priced headsets from Oculus, Sony, and HTC pack the processing punch to deliver “spatially oriented” audio experiences that consider direction, distance, and environmental factors when creating the soundtrack. Cardboard, powered by your smartphone, can’t do that yet. But earlier this week, the Cardboard team made it a little easier to give the audio in these apps a bit more realism. Asthis blog post from Google Cardboard product manager Nathan Martz outlines, the Cardboard software development kit for Android and the Unity game engine now support spatial audio. This platform update paves the way for Google Cardboard to become something more than a gateway drug to true VR.