A curious job posting, listed at the tail end of last week, indicates that Google is cooking up something big with its strategy for virtual reality.
Cardboard is Google's novel approach to bringing VR to the masses, something Facebook's Oculus VR likely won't do anytime soon with its $600 price tag for its premium VR headset.
Google's concept is simple: put a modern smartphone into cardboard headset fitted with lenses and a strap. With the smartphone installed in the headset and the Cardboard app loaded on the phone, the handset's display serves each eye with content. The Cardboard platform takes advantage of a smartphone's sensors, such as NFC radios and accelerometers, to deliver the VR experience.
It was all seemingly one big laugh, until people found out how well the concept works.
Google is boasting 5 million served, with users of its Cardboard VR platform consuming, on average, five pieces of VR software from the Play Store. And users have guzzled more than 350,000 hours of VR videos on YouTube and they've taken more than 750,000 VR photos with the Cardboard camera.
With the interest piqued, Google appears to be moving in to the next phase of its VR strategy: hardware. There are still plenty of Google job listings related to Cardboard, but there are several recent VR-related postings that make no mention of the platform.
Some of the VR-related jobs that make no mention of Cardboard include calls for software engineers with networking experience, VR media, VR camera systems, computer vision, mobile VR and consumer hardware.
Those job listings offer clues to what Google plans to follow Cardboard with. One describes a VR camera system that, unlike the costly Jump, is being designed for consumers.
"We are building novel camera systems to capture stereo panoramic video," Google says in the listing. "These camera systems will allow content producers to create amazing virtual reality experiences."
Perhaps the juiciest info to be published in a job posting appears in a listing that takes care not to mention VR, but it sounds for all the world like a VR headset that's a few steps up from Cardboard and may even a have a leg up on Samsung's Gear VR.
"Our consumer hardware team is working on revolutionizing how people interact with their hardware, and looking for engineers to make that a reality," the posting reads. "We want to open new ways to interact with devices and create a natural, seamless interface the world's information."
That same posting goes on to offer details on a consumer device that has "a focus on low power and efficient thermal solutions." The person who wins the job will "lead overall engineering system integration of high-performance, battery powered, highly constrained consumer electronics products."
It's not a clear picture of what will come after Cardboard, but it's clear Google plans to step up from Cardboard.