Google: all you need for your own VR experience is … cardboard

Google have released their first foray in to the world of immersive VR. They’re calling it Cardboard, because the do-it-yourself headset is made of … well, cardboard.

“Construct a VR viewer from everyday items you can find in your garage, online or at your local hardware store,” is the headline on the Google Cardboard website, complete with a picture of the necessary components.

Build your own VR heaset from cardboard, magnifying lens and a few other bits, and use it with your Android smartphone
Google Cardboard: build your own VR headset from cardboard, magnifying lens and a few other bits, and use it with your Android smartphone

And before you laugh yourself silly thinking this is another little joke from those pranksers who brought us GMail Blue in April 2013, it’s not. The heart of the system is a VR App designed to run on smartphones which can be mounted into the home-made headset.

Cardboard was unveiled at the Google I/O Developers Conference in San Francisco. the app takes advantage of a smartphone’s built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes to provide head tracking, and demonstration environments include a Hall of Mirrors and the opportunity to travel through Chicago. Users can also watch YouTube videos as if sitting in a movie theatre and explore 360-degree panoramic photos or run a series of VR experiments using Google Chrome on their ‘phones.  There’s also a software development kit which allows users to code their own immersive experiences.

“David Coz and Damien Henry at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris built a cardboard smartphone housing to prototype VR experiences as part of a 20% project. The results elicited so many oohs and ahs that they inspired a larger group to work on an experimental SDK,” the website explains, providing the “why” of the effort.

The finsihed headset with 'phone mounted
The finished headset with ‘phone ready to be fitted

Nor is the headset entirely low-tech. Although a phone is almost completely encased in the headset, the instructions provide a guide to making a trigger with a metal ring and a magnet and which uses the ‘phone’s magnetometer. Flicking the ring downward as items come into view allows you to select them.

VR headsets for smartphones aren’t exactly a new idea. We’ve had Kickstarter campaigns for the likes of Altergaze, and there are items like Durovis Dive. But Google Cardboard offers fun approach to things – the company noting that it can be worn with glasses, but that “you may want to cut flaps into both sides of the viewer. There’s a fold line pre-cut into both sides of the viewer to make this easier.”

For those who don’t want to be bothered with gathering all the bits and cutting cardboard to create their own headset, and just want to put the thing together and start enjoying VR on their smartphone, a pre-cut kit with all the necessary parts can be purchased from Dodocase!

Now all we need is SL Go with the Oculus Rift viewer code 😉 .

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