Until Google's I/O event, we kinda’ were the only ones on the market promoting VR in a handheld way as opposed to strapping it to your head (or as we like to call it ‘Casual Virtual Reality’). In fact, this was also our biggest drawback. Our voice as a startup wasn’t loud enough to set a trend where game developers would find creative and interesting ways of working around the lack of classic buttons and delivering unique and amazing VR experiences, but Google is. Let’s face it: regardless of how powerful smartphones will become, you will never strap it to your face and take out a joystick just for playing a game in public. You might do that at home, but why would you do it with your phone when you might have an Oculus Rift or Sony Morpheus at home anyway? However, for playing a quick VR racing type of game or for checking out the VR presentation of an event, smartphone based VR devices are great! This is what Altergaze is all about: casual VR and AR on the go. The fact that Google seems to share our view couldn’t make us happier.
We think it’s very important to realise that the most exciting part about Google Cardboard is not the Cardboard itself, but the software and hardware implications that came with this announcement. We were a bit concerned about sending all the rewards without any high quality VR apps and games published yet. So the Cardboard App couldn’t come in at a better time. It literally has everything we advertised Altergaze for: interactive 360 storytelling, a virtual tour through Paris, VR YouTube player, 360 image viewer and VR google maps. This means there will be something for you to enjoy immediately after receiving your Altergaze.
Equally important, Google Cardboard is a statement for smartphone manufacturers. They need to get their future devices VR ready. This might mean higher frequency gyroscopes, low response time displays, but most importantly more attention towards the gyroscope calibration.
But the Cardboard App as it is now on Google Play still lacks a major component: the ability to shift the render matrix in order to accurately calibrate the stereoscopy.
Below are two images to illustrate what this means.
When using a Nexus 5 with Cardboard (or an Altergaze with the same distance between the lenses as Cardboard) the stereoscopy is perfect.
But if you use a smartphone with a different size display (in this case a display that is less than 0.2 inches bigger diagonally or 5mm wider) the center of the lenses does not align with the centre of each image anymore.
The red arrows point at the mary-go-round. Notice how it’s not in the same place for both eyes anymore if the lenses are in the exact same place but the screen is bigger.
PLEASE NOTE: the process to get perfect stereoscopy is a lot more complex that just aligning the centre of the images with the centre of the lens, in fact, they are supposed to be a bit offset, but this was the best way to illustrate how even a tiny shift in screen size (in this case an insignificant 1.25mm extra offset for each eye) is enough to completely mess up the stereoscopy and potentially to even cause a small headache.
At the end of the day, this is not too bad since we have a software solution for it.
With a simple software update the Cardboard app could truly be compatible with any smartphone (with a few drawbacks of course, but at least you won’t see double or your eye would not ache). But since it’s an open source project we might be able to integrate our stereoscopy algorithm and and, if possible (this isn’t confirmed yet), re-release the app for you guys. Our algorithm will accurately calculate the stereoscopy for any Altergaze variation and any smartphone size.
It would be nice if we could reach out to Google and embed our algorithm into the original release of the app rather than making a new ‘Cardboard for Altergaze’ app.
TO SUM UP:
Google’s involvement in smartphone based VR is great news! Everything about Cardboard aligns perfectly with the Altergaze concept and it makes our device so much stronger.
Since there is a great suite of VR experiences with the release of the Google Cardboard App, we can now focus on building all the headsets for everyone rather than divide our resources between hardware and software development (as we have been doing for the past 8 weeks).
We also took in consideration the magnetic ring that the Cardboard app uses to interact with the smartphone and we might be able to include a similar solution for Altergaze without compromising the design.
We believe that standardising Virtual Reality for smartphones is extremely important. And this is what Altergaze is all about: a Virtual Reality platform (not a product) that is truly compatible with any smartphone.
We are looking forward to see where Google will take their Android VR SDK.
We will still focus on delivering our own VR SDK for Unity and UDK.