Ben Oliver

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Google Cardboard

Virtual reality on the cheap.
28 November 2014

Virtual reality is a fairly rapidly growing market now, especially since Oculus VR1 came out with the ‘Rift’.

They realised that the technology required to do this is available now, and it’s cheap, it just needs someone to put it all together and make the software work.

Well a few months ago Google took that notion a step futher and posited that the components are already in people’s phones. There’s accurate motion tracking, a hi-res screen and powerful hardware. All it needs is a way to view it.

Enter Google Cardboard2.

This is a laughably simple concept:

  1. Cut out the cardboard template (freely available)
  2. Insert some cheap plastic lenses
  3. Slide your phone in the back with the app running
  4. Strap the whole thing to your head

It’s remarkably good. The apps are basic but effective, especially the Google ones like Street View and Google Earth. The head tracking is spot on. The slight 3-D effect works like a charm.

You put this up to your face and dive into a different world. It’s as simple as that. It’s like one of those slide show goggles from tourist gift shops, on steroids. I held it until my arms were tired.

The one I have is a kit off the internet - the card is pre-cut and crucially it comes with the lenses you need. Still, if you’re on a budget you can make this yourself without too much hassle.

Yes, this is a gimmick and I really struggle to see any good uses for VR beyond a cheap thrill. I’m not sure people want to shut themselves off from the world for extended periods of time - it’s quite a tiring experience.

However, this is really fun, really well done and really cheap; well worth a look.

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