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Google just made it easier for iPhone apps to work with Cardboard VR

The search giant wants more people to use its no-frills Cardboard headset. How? By helping software developers build virtual reality apps for Google's main rival.

Google released software tools that help programmers write Cardboard apps for iPhones.

Google wants everyone to wear cardboard boxes on their faces. It wants that so much that it's just announced a plan to make it easier for Apple iPhone developers to write VR apps.

That's a big deal because, first, the iPhone is the biggest rival to phones powered by Google's Android mobile operating system, and second, until now there hasn't really been an easy way for coders to build virtual reality apps that you can view with Cardboard using an iPhone.

Google embraced Apple's tech more fully on Wednesday by releasing a software development kit for iPhones. An SDK is techspeak for a set of software tools to help programmers write apps that take advantage of specific features in different devices.

When it comes to VR, Google's approach is no frills -- its Cardboard headset is literally made of cardboard. Selling for about $25, it turns your smartphone into a VR screen. Cardboard apps are available both for phones running Android and for iPhones, which run Apple's iOS mobile software. Android and iOS are the two most popular mobile operating systems, running on about 97 percent of the world's phones.

The new set of tools lets software developers more easily embed 360-degree videos -- which let people look up, down and around in a video scene -- into their iPhone and Android apps, as well as on the Web. Think a travel app letting you experience a deep-sea dive or a real estate app letting you virtually tour an apartment.

Google's push for VR on iPhones is just the latest in Silicon Valley's love affair with the nascent technology of virtual reality. Earlier this week, Facebook began selling the consumer version of its Oculus Rift VR headset. Last November, Samsung released goggles called the Gear VR as part of a partnership with Oculus.

Google isn't done with Cardboard. In May, the search giant is expected to release an updated version that may ditch the titular cardboard for plastic. It could also introduce an entirely new device that doesn't use a phone screen as the viewer.