Discover Google Cardboard: The easy way to try virtual reality

Having a virtual reality experience doesn’t have to cost the earth. Just hook your smartphone up to a Google Cardboard headset to enjoy VR for under £20.

Virtual reality is becoming, well, a reality. VR games are already being developed to work with game consoles – but virtual reality headsets are also on the way, simulating everything from space exploration to movies.

Giants including Facebook and Sony are currently working on their own high-tech headsets that will allow people to move in – and interact with – a virtual world. The person wearing the headset can turn in every direction and expect to see something new, while physical controllers will enable the wearer to explore and summon objects.

Although exact pricing is yet to be confirmed, Facebook’s offering Oculus Rift is expected to cost around £200 – which is out of the reach for many.  So if you don’t want to shell out that much, but still want to get a taste of virtual reality, why not use Google Cardboard...

 

What is Google Cardboard?

Google Cardboard is Google’s cheap do-it-yourself alternative to the flashier VR headsets being developed.

As the name suggests, it is made from cardboard which you need to fold together – although you can get slightly more premium viewers made out of plastic.

Google don’t make the cardboard viewers themselves – they’ve developed the specification, which other companies follow. Viewers approved by Google display a Google Cardboard badge.

I am Cardboard v2

Where can I get a Google Cardboard viewer?

Google has a list of approved viewers on its Cardboard website, but many of these go to US shopping sites.

Instead, you can find many on Amazon. The one we’ve tested is the v2.0 cardboard viewer by I Am Cardboard.

What phone do I need to use Google Cardboard?

Smartphones using Android, iOS or Windows Phone will work with a Google Cardboard viewer - but to get the best experience, you phone will need to fit the viewer.

The headset we used measured 13cm x 8cm – which fits perfectly with the LG G4 smartphone – so a 5.5 inch screen is ideal.

Is it easy to set up?

Yes. The latest batch of Google Cardboard viewers are quite simple to assemble – although it will vary depending on which manufacturer and model you choose.

The v2.0 I Am Cardboard viewer took seconds to set up. Simply slide it out of the box and pull the hook and loop fastener along the top to unfold the viewer.

Take the two tabs and pull them down so they are next to the goggles, and press the hook and loop fasteners down.

Assembling Google Cardboard

Now place your phone upright so that the screen is against the hole, then place the remaining flap over it and secure with the hook and loop.

Assembling Google Cardboard

Some apps will require you to touch the screen. Our cardboard viewer features a button on the top right that touches the screen whenever you tap it.

If the view seems a bit off, you may need to adjust it slightly by moving phone slightly to the left or right. You should also ensure that your phone’s screen and the viewer’s lens are clean.

Google Cardboard assembled

[Everything you need to know about Oculus Rift]

What app do I use with Google Cardboard?

There are a variety of apps to choose from, but it all depends on the operating system of your phone. Android and iOS have the largest selection of VR apps.

To search for VR apps, simply open the app store on your phone and search for ‘VR’.

Google also has its own dedicated Google Cardboard app for Android, which acts as a hub for all your VR content. There is also a Google Cardboard app on iOS for some samples.

Many apps are free, but only provide a short VR experience – such as InMind, an adventure/sci-fi game which allows you to journey through a patient’s brain and destroy bad neurons on Android and iOS.

You can also get a taste of the wild and wonderful using the Discovery VR app on Android and iOS, which allows you to swim close-up with sharks and sit alongside lions.

Or, you could walk among dinosaurs with the Jurassic Virtual Reality app on Android and iOS too.

Some videos on YouTube are also made to experience with Google Cardboard on Android phones only. All these videos can be found on YouTube’s 360 channel. When you pick a video, click the small Cardboard icon in the corner to set it up for your headset.

Google Cardboard app

 

Is it worth it?

Virtual reality gaming and experiences are only going to keep on coming – and they are great fun.

The hole for the nose could do with some extra cushioning and as it’s just cardboard, it will surely get worn down over time – but if you’re interested in VR and unable to afford the high-end kit, a Google Cardboard viewer is definitely a good cost-effective alternative.

See what virtual reality is like when using the HTC Vive in our video below:

 

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