Open sourcing Google Cardboard

Posted by Jeffrey Chen, Product Manager, AR & VRGoogle CardboardFive years ago, we launched Google Cardboard—a simple cardboard viewer that anyone can use to experience virtual reality (VR). From a giveaway at Google I/O to more than 15 million units worldwide, Cardboard has played an important role in introducing people to VR through experiences like YouTube and Expeditions. In many cases, it provided access to VR to people who otherwise couldn’t have afforded it.

With Cardboard and the Google VR software development kit (SDK), developers have created and distributed VR experiences across both Android and iOS devices, giving them the ability to reach millions of users. While we’ve seen overall usage of Cardboard decline over time and we’re no longer actively developing the Google VR SDK, we still see consistent usage around entertainment and education experiences, like YouTube and Expeditions, and want to ensure that Cardboard’s no-frills, accessible-to-everyone approach to VR remains available.

Today, we’re releasing the Cardboard open source project to let the developer community continue to build Cardboard experiences and add support to their apps for an ever increasing diversity of smartphone screen resolutions and configurations. We think that an open source model—with additional contributions from us—is the best way for developers to continue to build experiences for Cardboard. We’ve already seen success with this approach with our Cardboard Manufacturer Kit—an open source project to enable third-party manufacturers to design and build their own unique compatible VR viewers—and we’re excited to see where the developer community takes Cardboard in the future.

What’s Included in the open source project

We’re releasing libraries for developers to build their Cardboard apps for iOS and Android and render VR experiences on Cardboard viewers. The open source project provides APIs for head tracking, lens distortion rendering and input handling. We’ve also included an Android QR code library, so that apps can pair any Cardboard viewer without depending on the Cardboard app.

An open source model will enable the community to continue to improve Cardboard support and expand its capabilities, for example adding support for new smartphone display configurations and Cardboard viewers as they become available. We’ll continue to contribute to the Cardboard open source project by releasing new features, including an SDK package for Unity.

If you’re interested in learning how to develop with the Cardboard open source project, please see our developer documentation, or visit the Cardboard GitHub repo to access source code, build the project and download the latest release.