Many questions surrounded the first prototypes of the Oculus Rift when it first appeared as a Kickstarter project. The headset would become the standard-bearer for a new generation of virtual reality projects. But its gestation was long enough to open a window for competitors. The most disruptive of these was Cardboard, a ridiculously cheap and plainly named reference design that spawned many casual VR experiences. It was in many ways the anti-Oculus
Cardboard's low price and compatibility with a wide array of compatible phones has made it a VR viewer for the masses. Apptopia data shows that just the Google Play version of the app has been downloaded tens of thousands of times every day, over 2.2 million times in just the past three months.
Little have those downloaders realized that Cardboard was serving another agenda as well, attracting key VR media and technology partners, some of whom would be among the first to announce support for Daydream. Such content is particularly important because virtual reality is a classic chicken and egg problem. This is true even for Google, which has ready access to a nearly endless supply of video on YouTube that it is beginning to tap into with YouTube VR.
Indeed, the past few weeks have shown a run-up in Cardboard downloads as excitement mounts about the possibilities for Daydream alongside the realization that the fabric-formed headset works only with Google’s own Pixel phone for now. Because of this, Daydream's app, Google VR Services, has only been downloaded an estimated 1,784 times in total. While Cardboard now has hundreds of compatible “experiences” according to Google, the company’s more concerted effort around Daydream aims to make VR more mainstream. That’s going to require attracting more big content properties.