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Google joins the virtual reality craze ... with a piece of cardboard

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June 26, 2014

Google is taking on Oculus and Sony with ... a piece of cardboard?

Google is taking on Oculus and Sony with ... a piece of cardboard?

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Virtual reality is all the rage these days. Well, that is, apart from the fact that you can't yet buy any of the most talked-about VR hardware. But if a just so crazy it might work Google project has its way, we might all soon be walking around with homemade VR headsets made on the cheap. Meet Google Cardboard.

Nope, this isn't one of Google's famous April Fools' jokes. Google Cardboard is very much real, was announced at Google I/O and is listed as an experimental project for developers. With the right materials – including some corrugated cardboard, a pair of lenses, magnets, velcro, a rubber band and (optionally) an NFC tag – you too can own your own virtual reality headset.

This is all you need to make your own virtual reality headset (well, apart from an Android...

The only other thing you'll need is an Android phone to slide into this bad boy. Once VR-friendly Android apps start popping up, their feed will, as you might expect, display on your smartphone's screen. Looking at that feed through the lenses will create something akin to the 360-degree effect that Oculus has revitalized in the last couple of years.

The idea here is to skip the expensive and hyped hardware (Oculus was bought by Facebook earlier this year for US$2 billion) and get some Android-powered VR hardware into as many hands as possible. But before the focus shifts to regular ol' Android users, Google needs to focus on developers, to start making some VR-friendly Android software.

An Android phone, running Android 4.2 or higher, slides into the front of the cardboard he...

While Google's focus, as is often the case, is on this open and inexpensive solution, this could actually be a pretty savvy long-term business move. Facebook's Oculus and Sony (along with, most likely, many other companies with unannounced projects) are soon going to be duking it out for the early lead in virtual reality, but Google is trying to sneak in through the backdoor. The company could use a) its massive Android userbase and b) the dirt-cheap nature of this project, to quickly establish Android as a hotbed for VR software. If that works, I suspect it could pave the way for premium (you know, not made of cardboard) VR headsets that work in a similar manner. And, like so many other things, it would all run through Android.

But that's getting way ahead of things, as Google Cardboard is still early days. This is easily one of the most crazy-pants ideas to come out of Mountain View in some time, but I always thought that those kinds of ideas showcased Google at its best. Even if Cardboard ultimately gets chucked into the recycling bin, it still gives me faith that the search giant's founding spirit is alive and kicking.

You can read more – not to mention download the design files and SDK – at the developers' page below.

Source: Google Cardboard

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
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8 Comments

Google sure knows how to penetrate markets

hdm
27th June, 2014 @ 06:12 am PDT

The VR "Craze??" We've never even seen actual VR. Marketing can't figure out what it is, and marketing controls product management. That's why there are no viable product offerings, after the technology being available for many years.

Google is about to experience Microsoft Syndrome - instant name recognition, boatloads of money, bursting its britches, but stalled in the new product department. The Google name may yet become the kiss of death. Their most profitable ventures will be the companies they have purchased but not rebranded.

Eddie
27th June, 2014 @ 07:31 am PDT

I've seen this referred to as the "Oculus Thrift." :)

Jon A.
27th June, 2014 @ 08:35 am PDT

It would be a good idea for a custom corrugated cardboard fabricator to order cutting dies (they include scoring for folds) optimized for the various sizes of phones and shapes and placement of screens (up to mini-tablets or bigger). This could marketed as a kit with the other desirable parts, through Make Magazine, as well as through venues which would attract potential customers for the content.

Mark Roest
28th June, 2014 @ 02:12 pm PDT

People with 3D printers could create a more aesthetically pleasing version of the cardboard portion, for more durability, and a custom fit.

Stuart M Anderson
29th June, 2014 @ 06:45 am PDT

They should just sell them for $10 instead of giving instructions to build them.

Daishi
30th June, 2014 @ 09:21 am PDT

I bought google Cardboard from http://www.pcardboard.com

Free delivery and high quality.

Proj CardBoard
12th July, 2014 @ 06:43 am PDT

Check out www.googlecardboard.com for affordable, amazingly cut kits/parts and pre-cuts for your own VR!

Chelsea Shaffer
22nd July, 2014 @ 11:52 am PDT
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