Google Cardboard is a Virtual Reality (VR) platform developed by Google. It is a low-cost system aimed at increasing interest in Virtual Reality applications. Google Cardboard uses a fold-out cardboard viewer which can either be bought or can be built by the users themselves based on the specifications provided freely by Google. A smartphone, which will be used as the display, is inserted into a slot in the viewer. When a Google Cardboard-compatible app is run on the smartphone, the display is split into two panes, one for each eye. Interaction with the virtual world is made possible using a magnet switch or a capacitive lever.
The cardboard viewer is made up of various parts such as the cardboard itself, plastic lenses of 45mm focal length, a lever with either magnets or capacitive tape and something like Velcro and rubber band to fasten the smartphone in place. If you choose to, you can also use Near Field Communication (NFC). Near Field Communication allows wireless connectivity between two electronic devices which are placed close to each other. If you place an NFC chip in the viewer,it will automatically launch the Cardboard app when the smartphone is placed in the headset.
Google provides three Virtual Reality Software Development Kits (VR SDKs). The SDK for Android uses Java and the one for Unity uses C#. There is an SDK available foriOS as well. Using the Google VR SDKs you can develop applications both for Google Cardboard and for Daydream, an enhanced VR platform launched in 2016 following the success of Google Cardboard. These software development kits provide libraries, API documentation, developer samples and design guidelines.
Google’s Cardboard app provides six demos – Earth, Exhibit, Photo Sphere, My Videos, Tour Guide and Windy Day. Cardboard-compatible applications are available on Google Play store and App store.Some of the most popular ones are Chris Milk’s Within –VR, Expeditions which allows teachers to take their students on a field trip to places such as Antartica, a game app InMind which takes place inside a brain, Star Wars VR, the indie horror Chair in a Room and The North Face: Climb, an app from Jaunt through which you can follow two The North Face climbers.
While using Google Cardboard, the images will respond to the movement of your head. So if you look to your right, you will see what is to the right in relation to your position in the virtual world. You can trigger movements using the magnet switch or capacitive lever. The movement of the magnet is sensed by the magnetometer in the phone which makes it possible to control what is happening on the screen, as if you were touching the screen.
The Google Virtual Reality platform, Google Cardboard, was developed at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris. It was launched in 2014 and within the first 19 months more than 1000 Google Cardboard-compatible applications were published. Brands such as Volvo and Mattel have made use of the Google Virtual Realitylaunching an app featuring the Volvo XC90 experience and releasing their own branded Cardboard kits. New York Times calls Google Cardboard a way of creating empathy by putting us in someone else’s world.
The main concern regarding the use of Google Cardboard is the nausea that you may feel caused by an imbalance in the ear because the viewer senses only the orientation of your head and not your position. While it is great for short periods of time, people go for more high-end models based on the original Cardboard when looking to have longer hours of entertainment.The magnet used in the Cardboard does not work efficiently with certain phones as the magnetometers in those models may be placed away from the magnet on the headset.
JoyGeek Cardboard is a VR headset made of plastic and comes with a strap to keep the viewer in place. View-Master is a version by Mattel. This does not have straps, but comes with many extras such as its own AR reels. Homido is a more expensive option. It is adjustable and has three different settings for those wearing glasses. Merge is another expensive option compared to the official Cardboard. This headset makes it easier to keep the screen in focus. There are touch-enabled buttons that let you have better control of the display.Fibrum has HD lenses which allow you to see very clear images. This headset uses a head tracking technology that gives you a much better experience compared to the less expensive options available. The Gear by Samsung has hundreds of apps and games.