Google has unveiled Cardboard, which uses a cardboard enclosure to turn a phone into a VR headset.
Hardware manufacturers are lining up to nab a piece of the virtual reality headset market. The Oculus Rift may be leading the pack, but Samsung has registered a trademark for its rumored headset, and Sony's Project Morpheus impressed The Escapist's Joshua Vanderwall at E3. Now, Google is joining the VR headset rush. Google announced project Cardboard at its annual I/O developer conference, describing it as "a no-frills enclosure that transforms a phone into a basic VR headset."
The plans for the headset can be downloaded and cut out at home on corrugated cardboard. To build the headset, you'll also need two lens, two magnets, some adhesive-backed Velcro, and a rubber band (to keep the phone in place). Google provides a list of suggested components and some online sources. The free Android demo app then lets you explore Google Earth in virtual reality, tour Versailles, and watch YouTube videos.
"Virtual reality has made exciting progress over the past several years. However, developing for VR still requires expensive, specialized hardware," says Google. "Thinking about how to make VR accessible to more people, a group of VR enthusiasts at Google experimented with using a smartphone to drive VR experiences." Assuming your local hardware store stocks the necessary parts, assembling a Cardboard viewer could easily cost you less than $50, not including the phone. "David Coz and Damien Henry at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris built a cardboard smartphone housing to prototype VR experiences as part of a 20% project," says Google. "The results elicited so many oohs and ahs that they inspired a larger group to work on an experimental SDK." Google's 20% projects allow employees to spend one fifth of their time working on side projects, a practice that helped created Google Glass.