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I remember when virtual reality tried to go mainstream in the mid-80s, big, heavy headsets and poor computer graphics let you walk around a world that looked like a big pixel. It was interesting but even the teenage me was unimpressed. Jump forward to now and virtual reality has become cheap and nimble.
Enter Google Cardboard. For about $15 you can have a virtual reality headset sent to you. Slide your smartphone in, put your headphones on and you’re off.
Sure there are more expensive headsets from Samsung or Facebook, but why bother? The experience on Google Cardboard is excellent enough to make you lose your balance or walk into chairs.
The New York Times sent its subscribers a free headset a while back and has been putting excellent content on its VR app: NYT VR. For now it’s just a cool toy, but I can see how the marriage of cheap headsets, smartphones, and apps, will lead to new ways to communicate, learn, get the news, etc.
So yesterday I wrote about Microsoft’s new venture Bing, in which they’re attempting to scrap past mistakes and push the market leader Google in terms of search. So what does Google do? Today, they announce plans to essentially unify communication on the web in a new product called Google Wave. Why use e-mail when you can have a real time conversation instead? It’s not available to the general public until later this year, but when you consider this and Google Voice, it seems that Google isn’t focused on search, but changing communications and information paradigms.
Instead of just organizing search results like Microsoft and others, Google feels like it’s trying to introduce new ways of creating and using information as well. When you look at the forrays Google is making into the user’s internet experience (from browser to information) and the expectation of nearly 20 Android phones by the end of the year it feels like Google is on the cusp of a change as big as MS-DOS to Windows. Stay tuned, it all looks pretty cool.