Google Maps sneaks virtual reality Easter egg into Street View

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When Google announced Cardboard at its I/O conference, it seemed like a one-time party trick: You pair an Android phone with Google’s cheap viewer to experience virtual reality—an accessible first taste for anyone who hasn't been able to get their heads into prototypes like the Oculus Rift.

But Google has some serious ambitions for Cardboard, creating an SDK for third-party apps and promoting different versions of its build-it-yourself viewer. 

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Take a virtual reality field trip inside Google Maps.

The newest Cardboard tool puts a virtual reality experience right inside of the Google Maps Android app. When you enter Street View, you’ll see a “look around” button on the lower-right area of the screen. Double-tap it and the screen splits, with both sides tightly focused on what’s in front of you. Then move the phone to “look around” as though you were standing there. Anyone can try it out, although it’s a more immersive experience with a Google Cardboard viewer.

Why this matters: Virtual reality is looking better all the time, with Facebook’s Oculus prototype and Samsung VR showing off some impressive concepts. Google clearly wants to keep a hand in: The company is expanding the Cardboard team, promising more fun features in the future.

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