With all the new activity around virtual reality, it now appears that one of Silicon Valley’s giants, Google, has decided to double down on the rapidly expanding platform.
Google’s vice president of product management Clay Bavor is set to shift his focus from overseeing both Google Cardboard and Google apps (like Gmail and Docs) in order to double down on VR.
A Google spokesperson confirmed the executive shift in a report from Re/Code, but details regarding exactly what Bavor will focus on with his additional VR attentions remain unknown.
An easy first guess is that Bavor will help Google broaden its reach with Cardboard, a low-cost VR solution that proved to be a hit with New York Times readers in 2015. The lightweight device was delivered for free to more than a million Times subscribers, allowing them to experience an immersive 360-degree view of a VR documentary called The Displaced.
According to Times CEO Mark Thompson, using Google Cardboard to deliver VR content was so successful that the company plans to continue producing VR content.
“VR is already margin-positive for us. We’re making money out of VR. We expect to make money from VR again in 2016,” Thompson said during an interview last week at CES with Beet.tv. “We had great early success with commercial partnerships – GE and Mini were the launch partners.”
The Times’ proof of VR profitability is no doubt a consideration in Google’s decision to focus more on VR, as an increasing number of brands, from Nissan’s Infiniti to franchises like Star Wars (in partnership with Verizon), are flocking to Google Cardboard to help deliver their messages.
“Indeed, I would say there is immense marketer interest — they can see both that we have the commitment to the quality of content and experience, but also we’ve got actual viewers,” Thompson said. “Most people who talk about VR don’t have a way of actually getting VR in front of consumers.”
Another major focus for Bavor may come by way of a recent Google investment ($542 million) in Magic Leap. Although Magic Leap is focused on augmented reality (AR), it’s not hard to imagine the Google VR’s efforts might eventually intersect with its ongoing AR concerns.