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Google's Works with Cardboard program promises 'awesome VR' for everyone

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Google is getting even more serious about virtual reality and its own Cardboard platform today. In a blog post, the company announced the launch of a "Works with Google Cardboard" certification program. It aims to guarantee compatibility and the best user experience between the growing number of inexpensive VR headsets (modeled after Google's own) and virtual reality apps in Google Play. "There’s a tremendous diversity of VR viewers and apps to choose from," wrote Andrew Nartker, Cardboard's product manager. "Each viewer may have slightly different optics and dimensions, and apps actually need this info to deliver a great experience."

So to address this, Google is now offering developers a new tool that will automatically calibrate headsets and apps for the optimal viewing experience. Users will scan a QR code found on any headset with the "Works with Google Cardboard" badge, and from there all apps will automatically be adjusted to account for that viewer's specific design.

Improved SDK tools for Cardboard are rolling out to developers now, and Google's also releasing a set of design guidelines that it's put together in the months since launching Cardboard last June. These give developers ideas for proper VR menu and interface design, and the guidelines also highlight important steps that can keep users from getting motion sick.

The most important guideline in designing for virtual reality is to always maintain head tracking. Never stop tracking the user’s head position inside of the application. Even a short pause in head tracking will cause some users to feel ill.

Users will also have an easier time browsing Google Cardboard-compatible apps in Google Play; VR apps are now divided into sections for Music and Video, Games, and Experiences. To round out today's news, Google also revealed that it recently acquired two companies that will help advance its VR efforts. One is Thrive Audio, whose ambisonic surround sound technology will bring truly "immersive audio to VR," according to Google. The other is the team behind Tilt Brush, a 3D painting VR game. All of this, Google says, is meant to drive its mission of "making VR better together."