Google introduces cardboard virtual reality rival

Written by David Hing

June 26, 2014 | 11:16

Tags: #android #google-cardboard

Companies: #google

The latest entrant to the virtual reality arena is from Google and made out of cardboard.

Announced during the I/O conference keynote speech, Google Cardboard is an app that transforms an Android smartphone into a virtual reality headset with the assistance of a viewer made out of cardboard.

The template for the extremely low cost headset also requires two plastic lenses, a set of magnets and velcro to hold things like the back panel closed and a washer on the side that is used as a selection button. An elastic band is used to keep the phone locked in place and an optional NFC tag can be included to get the phone to launch the companion app as soon as it is placed inside the headset.

To use the headset, users need to download the Google Cardboard app and then slot the phone into the back panel of the cardboard construction. At present, the app only has a handful of demos including access to Youtube, exploring Google Street view or climbing the Himalayas through Google Earth.

Budding virtual reality developers are also encouraged to try and build their own virtual reality experiences by Google which is offering a free VR Toolkit, an experimental SDK.

Google claims that the cardboard VR solution will work with most modern Android phones running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean or higher. The Samsung Galaxy S4, S5 and Nexus, the Google Nexus 4 and 5 and the Motorola Moto X have all been tested by Google and proved to be fully compatible. The Samsung Galaxy S3, Motorola Moto G and HTC One have been found to be partially compatible. Older phones might prove to be less successful.

The designs and instructions needed to make your own headset are available on the Google Cardboard page.

The virtual reality field is currently experiencing a boom and attracting attention from the wider tech industry. Earlier this year, Oculus Rift surprised everyone by announcing that they had been bought by Facebook for $2bn. Other VR projects in development include Sony’s Project Morpheus and an as-yet unnamed device from Valve.

Google has also dipped its toe into the related field of augmented reality through the dvelopment of Google Glass. This system of providing users with a phone-powered overlay on the world hit the UK earlier this week, coming with a £1,000 price tag.
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