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What happened?
Alphabet's (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google has announced that it has now shipped over 5 million units of its Google Cardboard set. Launched in the summer of 2014, it wasn't immediately clear if Google Cardboard was a joke. The simple accessory turns Android phones into a makeshift virtual-reality headset by allowing users to hold the phone to their eyes.

The purpose of Google Cardboard was to allow users to enjoy immersive VR experiences at a fraction of the cost of a full-featured VR headset. The search giant now offers a few different models made by different manufacturers. Google says that over the past couple of months, users have installed 10 million immersive apps that utilize Cardboard. There have been a total of 350,000 hours of YouTube watched with Cardboard.

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Does it matter?
Thus far, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has made the biggest splash into VR with the high-profile acquisition of Oculus VR. The social network recently detailed pricing and availability, and the total cost including both the Rift headset and a high-end PC can easily reach $1,500. That price point will naturally limit the appeal of the technology to niche enthusiasts.

Meanwhile, Samsung partnered with Oculus to release the Gear VR, which functions similar to Cardboard. Gear VR will strap a Galaxy device to your face to emulate a VR experience as well. Gear VR recently had a price drop to $99.

But what Google hopes to accomplish is to give users a taste of what VR has to offer at an extremely affordable price point. To the extent that Google can slowly catalyze interest in the burgeoning technology, the better it is for any company that hopes to get in on the VR market.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.