Google teams with GoPro in broad virtual reality push

Google is also opening its Cardboard VR device to iOS developers

GoPro Jump Rig at Google I/O 2015

GoPro Jump Rig at Google I/O 2015

Google has developed a camera system capable of capturing immersive video for virtual reality, expanding the company's efforts in this hot new field, and it's partnering with GoPro to commercialize it.

Google's Jump is based on a sophisticated camera rig that captures video in full 360 degree field of view, the company announced at its I/O developer conference on Thursday.

The system has already been used in some countries, and now Google has shared its specifications with GoPro, so that GoPro will sell a VR-type camera based on Jump's technology.

The program is part of a broader effort by Google to use immersive video to virtually transport people to places that otherwise might be out of reach, said Clay Bavor, VP of product management at Google.

The project ties into other Google products and services. This summer, people will be able to view Jump videos on YouTube while wearing Google Cardboard, a device for VR apps that works when a smartphone is inserted into it.

Exact timing plans for the launch, as well as the retail availability of the GoPro camera, were not announced.

Google unveiled Cardboard at last year's I/O, and more than one hundred Android apps have been designed for it. Now, iOS developers can also build apps for Cardboard.

Google revealed other design enhancements for Cardboard during the event. Its new design will now fit smartphones with screens as large as six inches.

Google also announced a new program called "Expeditions," which will integrate Cardboard devices and tablets in the classroom, to let teachers send their students on virtual field trips.

Google has partnered with the Planetary Society, the American Museum of Natural History and the Palace of Versailles for the program, which has already been deployed in hundreds of classes around the world, Bavor said. Teachers today can sign up online to participate.

Google faces rising competition in virtual reality, with Microsoft and Facebook being perhaps its largest rivals. Microsoft has HoloLens, a headset for interacting with holograms that integrates with Windows 10, while Facebook is looking to commercially launch its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset next year.

Facebook has also said that its news feed will support spherical videos later this year.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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