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Google’s Cardboard turns out to be an inexpensive VR headset

It turns out that the Cardboard package handed out after the Google I/O keynote was actually a DIY virtual reality kit, complete with VR apps to try out.
June 26, 2014

If you stuck around until the end of yesterday’s I/O keynote, you might have heard Sundar Pichai mention that, alongside a fancy smartwatch, attendees would also receive a nondescript cardboard package. Very secretive indeed.

It turns out that the cardboard box was actually a DIY virtual reality kit constructed from the cardboard itself. It’s obviously a much more low budget affair, compared with the likes of the Oculus Rift or Sony’s Morpheus. As our own Josh Vergara put it, it’s a “piece of cardboard with a magnet, a rubber-band, and a couple of pieces of plastic”.

Amazingly though, it works, providing that you have a handset that can actually fit in the front compartment. Currently, the list of supported phones includes the Google Nexus 4 and 5, the Moto X, Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5, as well as the original Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Cardboard pairs up with your handset via NFC, then just boot up the Cardboard app from the Play Store and you are off on your VR adventure.

Google Cardboard VR gif

The Cardboard app offers up a virtual reality take on a range of existing Google applications, including a fly around with Google Earth, a 3D street view, as well as Youtube and Photo Sphere apps. Google has also included a couple of other demos to show off its technology, including a 3D model exhibit, the Windy Day animated story, and the option to visit Versailles with your own tour guide. There’s also a separate set of demo experiments to try out via the Chome browser.

Although Cardboard might seem like a bit of a gimmick, Google has also provided a developer SDK to help others create their own virtual reality experiences. Which does make you wonder if Cardboard, or something similar, will be appearing again in the future.

There are also some assembly instructions over at the developer page, should you fancy sourcing the materials required to build your own inexpensive VR headset.