For a long time, the world has dreamt of virtual reality. We have it now, but when you think of a VR headset, you probably picture a really high-tech and way too expensive gizmo to fit your pocket.
Apparently Google thought the same, and now we have something simpler and more affordable. Thanks to a simple cardboard cutout, you can turn your smartphone into a complete virtual reality headset.
What is Google cardboard?
Google cardboard is simply a design that utilises a pair of focal distance lenses and cardboard to turn your android phone into a virtual reality device. It also uses a rubber band, Velcro and magnets to keep everything in place.
Once assembled, an android smartphone is set into it and users can then look through the lenses.
This simple setup, along with compatible apps, can turn the interaction with your phone’s screen into a real-world experience.
How does it work?
Once you place your phone away from the lenses at the optimal distance, a 3D effect is created while the lenses are held up to the eyes. Even when you turn your head around, the images will appear as if you are in the exact place as what your screen is displaying. By using the Street View demo, for example, you can explore the streets of Paris while observing your immediate surroundings in a location-sensitive virtual reality.
As a bonus, the cardboard has an NFC chip that automatically launches the official Cardboard app once a smartphone is placed into the headset.
The magnet on the side is another amazing feature of the Cardboard; it acts as a button to make up for the fact that you can’t reach your phone’s screen when inside the Cardboard. When moved, the magnet – which uses your smartphone’s magnetometer to detect movements and direct it while it is in the Cardboard – makes the screen behave like it has been pressed.
What can you do with Google Cardboard?
The Cardboard can work with a number of apps, from video apps to games. You can start with the built-in Cardboard app which comes with a few demos including Google Earth, through which you can fly wherever you would like. You can also use it to view popular videos on YouTube on a relatively ‘massive’ screen.
You should however be aware that you cannot use Google Cardboard to turn apps into 3D experiences, because creating a 3D effect needs a split screen optimised for the Cardboard. To our respite, though, Google has simplified the job for developers who wish to come up with apps compatible with the Cardboard.
More options are thus coming, making for big opportunities for app developers of the future!