At Google I/O last night, in addition to a choice between LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live smartwatch, attending developer’s goodies bags also had a mysterious object made out of cardboard. It turned out to be a do-it-yourself virtual reality headset called ‘Google Cardboard’.
The kit essentially includes a lens kit, magnets, two Velcro straps, a rubber band and an optional NFC sticker tag. Once you follow the folding instructions and pair the headset to your Android smartphone, you will get a working VR headset. The Velcro straps and rubber band hold your smartphone in place, while the magnet acts like a button that will help in navigation. When you look at your smartphone through the pair of lenses, the effect is of the image being wrapped around your eyes.
It may not be an Oculus Rift killer — it is made out of cardboard after all — and won’t get any company paying $2 billion for it, but it seems to be quite a nifty device. The folks at TechCrunch got to spend some time with it and the Cardboard has left them impressed.
Google has also launched a companion app for the headset called Chrome Experiments, which is available on the Google Play Store. Once you have the headset set and running you will be able to watch YouTube videos in a theater like environment, check out a new place via Google Street View, see all the photos stored on your phone in 360 degree via Photo Sphere Viewer, and take flyover tours in Google Earth among others.
The simplicity and practicality of the device almost feels like Google is mocking Facebook for paying a king’s ransom for Oculus Rift. The Cardboard Project website too reads, “We want everyone to experience virtual reality in a simple, fun, and inexpensive way.”