Google is discontinuing its Expeditions virtual reality app that allows students to go on virtual field trips to locations around the world. The existing experiences aren't going away but will be folded into the Google Arts & Culture app, which is home to some AR experiences.
The experiences won't die — The official last day the Expeditions app will be available in Google Play and Apple's App Store will be June 30, 2021. It's best to view the experiences through a VR headset like Google's Cardboard, which as the name implies is made of cardboard. But you can also simply view the experiences in 360 by moving your phone in different directions.
Expeditions was mostly geared towards education, with Google saying the app allowed educators to take students on learning experiences to far-away places. "We hope this product evolution to Google Arts & Culture will provide educators with a bridge to continue to use immersive content to transform their classrooms and enrich the learning experience for their students."
Abandoning VR — Google first announced its foray into VR back in 2015 with the Cardboard headset and VR developer SDK. Soon thereafter it released the Daydream View, a high-end cloth fabric headset that users would slot a compatible phone into for a captive experience. The company all but abandoned the efforts last year, however, discontinuing the Daydream headset and ending development of its SDK.
The VR space has struggled to go mainstream, and as such a large company, Google doesn't like investing in projects it doesn't see as having multi-billion dollar potential. "There ... hasn't been the broad consumer or developer adoption we had hoped, and we've seen decreasing usage over time of the Daydream View headset," the company wrote in a statement at the time.
It's all Oculus now — Facebook has invested much more heavily in its Oculus unit, hoping VR will be the next major computing platform where people connect with their friends. It recently released the Oculus Quest 2, a standalone headset that doesn't require a smartphone or PC to use and starts at $299. The headset has been well received, though some have complained about the new requirement that users need a Facebook account to use it.
Facebook hasn't broken out sales for its VR hardware, but said earlier this year that it made $297 million in non-advertising revenue during the first quarter of 2020, "driven largely by sales of Oculus products." That still pales in comparison to the $17 billion it made in advertising during the same period. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has big ambitions, however, hoping to get a billion people in VR someday.