Android N will have expanded support for virtual reality

Android developers will be able to tap into new virtual reality capabilities in the next major version of Android, codenamed N. As noted by Ars Technica, the second Android N Developer Preview contains references to “VR Listener” and “VR Helper” apps, as well as a permissions warning informing users that a given app “will be able to run when you are using applications in virtual reality mode.”

Details of this VR mode aren’t yet clear, but a February report in The Wall Street Journal said that Google was tweaking Android to work better with VR devices ahead of launching its own smartphone-compatible headset, which would follow the Cardboard initiative and may be announced at the company’s annual I/O conference next month. One mooted possibility is for VR apps to disable the phone’s auto-lock mechanism so that it doesn’t switch off after sitting in a headset for a while. Google is also said to be working on a standalone headset that doesn’t require a smartphone or PC to function.

Android N includes built-in support for 3D Touch-style pressure sensitivity, a split-screen mode for tablet multitasking, and revamped emoji. Google released the first developer preview last month, and anyone with a recent Nexus device or Pixel C can sign up for over-the-air updates — though it’s not recommended for day-to-day use.

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