|Estimated price||Approx $10|
|Display type:||Not included|
|Field of view:||Approx. 96 degrees|
|Head tracking:||Yes, smartphone dependent|
|Latency:||Variable (45mm focal length lenses standard)|
|Type:||Smartphone HMD shell|
Google Cardboard might look like an April Fool’s joke that went too far, but it’s actually the result of a small project by two Google engineers that was introduced at the 2014 Google I/O conference. This affordable project isn’t so much an HMD, more of a design plan for a DIY smartphone HMD mount.
Since virtual reality is such a unique experience, it is very difficult to convey it in a meaningful way to the public at large. Cardboard is therefore a legitimate way for the average person to try out a basic VR experience without putting down hundreds of dollars. Google has made the design of the Cardboard open to any manufacturer, so there are a few versions available now that are all more or less the same. This open source mindset has also allowed for app developers to create a standard product around which to build and test their software. As a result, you can already find a few apps in various app stores that are ‘cardboard compatible’.
The Cardboard has brought out the best in hacker and modder culture. You can find several versions of this tech made from more durable materials such as 3D printed ABS plastic, injection molded plastic and laser cut aluminium. Some custom versions may add a head strap or change the lens quality and size.
The Cardboard is intended to work with apps running on a smartphone. Its only input is a magnetic ring that, when pulled and released, causes a magnetic fluctuation that the phone’s magnetometer can detect. This means that you can look at a menu option and click the button to select it. Later versions of the Cardboard replace this magnetic ring with a switch that taps the screen. This makes Cardboard 2.0 compatible with devices that lack a magnetic compass. Due to its innovative design and extraordinarily affordable cost, the Cardboard has found a significant amount of popularity.
HMDs like the Cardboard have also been used to approximate what tethered HMDs, such as the Oculus Rift, can really achieve. One example of this is the Trinus VR application, which allows USB or Wi-Fi tethering to a phone in a Cardboard HMD.
The Cardboard has certainly done a huge amount to raise awareness of the possibilities of virtual reality technology, and has brought VR to a wide range of users who may not otherwise have tried it.