What is Google Cardboard?
“Hey, man, check out this awesome new virtual reality headset I’ve got.”
“Oh, cool, let’s have a look. Wait, is this – is this made out of cardboard?”
“Yeah, so what? You got a problem with that, Greg?”
“No, of course not. It’s just that it looks ridiculous is all. Like something my two-year-old nephew would bring home from school.”
“Screw you, Greg.”
Scenes like this have no doubt been erupting across the country over the past few days, and it’s all as a result of Google Cardboard, the Soviet tank of virtual reality headsets.
Unveiled at this year’s I/O (Google’s annual conference for developers), the new product is, of course, a gimmick. But that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t given a big boost of publicity to the virtual reality market.
So, what actually is it? It’s a cardboard (hence the name) headset made of very little more than a piece of cardboard, a rubber band, two lenses, and some Velcro. The user then downloads a special app on their Android phone (no iOS, obviously) and puts their phone inside the headset/cardboard box. When this happens, an NFC tag inside the headset activates the app on the phone (which was specially developed for Cardboard and features a few Google Maps and YouTube demos). The user then puts the headset on their head and experiences what has been described as a ‘very real’ virtual reality world.
Unfortunately, however, it’s not actually available to buy – at least not from Google themselves. Instead, the company have provided instructions on their website on how to make Cardboard for yourself, along with directions on how to obtain all the components (I say ‘all’ – there are six components in total, including the optional NFC tag).
This simplicity of the product of course means that it’s cheap. Really cheap. Especially compared with other current VR headsets. For instance, Oculus Rift, arguably the best known VR product, should be going on sale to developers later this month for around £200. Compare that to the price of a piece of cardboard and there’s no contest. Plus, Oculus Rift was bought by Facebook earlier this year for $2 billion, making Google Cardboard a hilarious and frugal rejoinder.
In fact, the product has already caused such widespread interest that, in time, the act of putting a cardboard visor on one’s head may not be solely consigned to Optimus Prime re-enactors.