Google Earth Enters The World Of Virtual Reality

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In what could be the most enticing product from Google, it has been revealed that the  have now launched the Google Earth views on Virtual Reality (VR). The company said on a blog post “With Earth VR, you can fly over a city, stand at the top of the highest peaks, and even soar into space, all in an completely immersive VR experience.” 

Google also announced on the blog, that they are bringing this product via the HTC Vive currently.

Titled Google Daydream, it is currently not being tried on for other platforms, atleast of what is known till now. This is also Google’s major push into consumer VR, whereby users can view the world around them in life size proportion and detail, but in a VR environment. Google has mentioned that currently they are bringing specific experiences at the Amazon River, Manhattan Skyline, Grand Canyon, the Swiss Alps, besides a few other locations.

Looking slightly deeper into Google’s trust with VR, considering they had worked out the Tilt Brush before. The Tilt Brush was a 3D painting tool which gained much fame among VR enthusiasts, because it gave multiple creative experiences to them.

The company put in resources to bring in regular updates, which made the Tilt Brush get more refined with time. As for now, Google Earth VR will be launching for the HTC Vive for the time being, via the Stream Store, and will be available for free of cost. 

According to a report from Farm 51, the current CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) of the VR world market over the next 5-year period, is stated to be a 100%, and the value of the market is supposed to touch $150 billion by the year 2020. In the US and EU alone, by the year 2018, there are expectations of 30,000,000 dedicated devices over this geographical area. In fact it also makes it clear, that the developments of 2016 alone will pull the demand for dedicated VR applications, as it was initially indicated at the 2015 AMD Conference, where participants had admitted that, “ It’s all about content”.  And this market, as it grows, has many big players operating in it, with HTC, Sony, Samsung, Microsoft, Epson, and even LG putting in their money’s worth to secure themselves a place in the VR, especially in the consumer segment.

With Google now willing to take on the segment more aggressively, it becomes interesting to look into some of their history. In 2015, they invested in a Swedish VR-firm which was valued at $25 million, which is another display of the fact that Alphabet’s most prominent company is indeed serious about their positioning. Also, on real terms, Google did use the Cardboard headset in 2014 to step into the market, but it was not totally indicative of what they plan to do, or what their market potential is. Nevertheless, they did manage to sell 5 million units worldwide, with over 1,000 applications built for the device, and there 25 million downloads for the same, on Google Play. Statistics, as published on Acc Applause, shows that have been more than 350,000 hours of Youtube content viewed on the cardboard headset.

Google has made itself a new pathway with the Google Daydream initiative, but there are challenges it will need to look into. In terms of technology, it will need to build specific SoC into the device, so that the users have a more sustained and flexible experience using it. While most high-end mobile handsets are created with VR capabilities, but there are severe limitations, which result in the phones running out of battery power and overheating in the process as well. One practical example is that of the Samsung Galaxy S6, which could get and run on VR mode for 40-45 minutes before it needs a rest.

The words of Nathan Martz, the Google Project Manager for Virtual Reality is actually the answer which hopefully, Google is working on, where he said at I/O 2016 event, “[Daydream will have a] sustained performance mode that manages the hardware so that people who get into VR can stay in VR as long as they want.”  The other challenge is the hardware which Google has certainly already refined with the headsets, but with the existing ecosystem which Google itself was responsible for building, it will certainly need to look at collaborations, so that the end-to-end customer experience, from hardware to software, and even content, can be a worthwhile one.

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