The Google Cardboard is more of a reality mask than a headset. Consisting primarily of cardboard and a pair of lenses, Cardboard, launched in 2014 by the American giant search engines, wants to be the gateway to the discovery of virtual reality. Very cheap and requiring only a compatible smartphone, the Cardboard (cardboard box) allows to discover, in a fun way, the potential of VR.
These two French employees of Google in Paris, who are at the origin of the idea of Google Cardboard. In 2014, they presented their cheap product in the wake of the presentation of the high-end Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
The concept is to offer a very cheap alternative to virtual reality headsets and democratize this technology to the general public. Several millions of Cardboard have since been marketed … a real cardboard!
What is Google Cardboard?
Google Cardboard is the virtual reality headset produced by the American firm in 2014. The general public was able to see the product during the 2 days of the Google I/O of San Francisco in 2014. This product is used to visualize in virtual reality videos, 360-degree images as well as apps and games. Its second version appeared on the market from May 2015. This Google Cardboard v2 is different from the first version for its ease of assembly. Read this article to the end to find out everything about Google’s Cardboard Virtual Reality Headset.
Google’s viewer is little more than just a cardboard box. The mask is indeed a fairly simple assembly of cardboard, lenses, Velcro strips to fix the smartphone, an elastic and, for the first version, magnets.
The Google Cardboard is either delivered as a kit or already assembled. It is also possible to easily design your own product by downloading plans available from Google. A little DIY and assembly and you have designed your own viewer. The only difficulty lies in getting lentils.
The Google Cardboard virtual reality headset in detail and in photos
The Google Cardboard is the brainchild of two French people from the Paris Institute Google Cultural Institute, Damien Henry and David Coz. The Google Input/Output event was chosen to present to the public for the first time on June 25, 2014, sometime after the announcement of the competition headset, Oculus Rift.
This headset is made of cardboard with a smartphone inside for viewing. Moreover, the American giant provides Internet users with the tutorial for its creation on its site. In addition to cardboard, there are magnets, elastic, lenses and Velcro strips. However, the second version no longer needs magnets.
Its ultimate use is to otherwise see specific multimedia content with a virtual vision. So, it’s an entertainment tool at the very beginning. However, professionals have taken advantage of Google Cardboard in another way by using it to promote their products and services. The automakers are among the first to have seen its potential. Thus, they used it either to present with a 360 degree view the new vehicles or to allow users to live a virtual immersive experience of these products among others.
Buy a Google Cardboard
It is possible to get a Google Cardboard on the Google site but different online stores like Amazon and stores also offer it. Some online shops are also offering an unofficial but improved version, with prints or more resistant materials.
It is also possible to get a kit version of the Google Cardboard self-assembly for a lower price. Finally, you can create your own viewer by downloading plans and showing your handyman skills. Then there is often the problem of lens proxuration.
Price of a Google Cardboard
There is no flat fee for the Google Cardboard, it depends on the store and whether it is an official version or not the virtual reality mask. We get it for 5 to 7 dollars a kit to build yourself. The masks already assembled and ready to use are sold between 6 and 12 dollars. Count a little more, up to $15 for a version with improved materials (cardboard varnished for example) and prints more cool than the cardboard packaging style.
Finally, note that it is often possible to get a free Cardboard. For example, many companies or newspapers carry out marketing operations and offer a free cardboard to their customers or visitors to a trade fair or event. Finally, some brands offer lenses as a gift and a plan to design for free his cardboard kit. Mac Donald’s and his Happy Meal menu or some brands of cereal for example have already proposed these items.
The technical characteristics of the Google Cardboard headset
The Google Cardboard Virtual Reality Headset is a simple device that anyone can recreate at home. You simply need the items listed below to do this:
- A compatible smartphone,
- 2 lenses in resin,
- 2 magnets (for version 1),
- 4 Velcro,
- 1 elastic.
Advantages and disadvantages of Google Cardboard
Despite its very affordable price (between 12 and 15 dollars depending on the version), Google Cardboard allows you to enjoy a large number of content in virtual reality. The virtual reality mask is far more limited by the characteristics and performance of the smartphone than by its own characteristics. Its main advantages are, of course, it’s extremely low price and the possibility of discovering many contents. It does not require a computer or connections. It is lightweight and portable and remains the ideal solution to learn about virtual reality.
However, because of its material, the VR mask remains fragile and has a limited life expectancy. Being a mask, it does not have straps for mooring on the head. It must therefore hold with the hands which can spoil a little experience especially on long-term content. Do not have any protections either, the Cardboard is hardly comfortable.
Google Cardboard: the benefits
Google Cardboard, Google’s virtual reality headset has many benefits for its users. His first asset is above all his availability. It has indeed arrived on the market while the other manufacturers announced their launch in this project.
In addition, it costs much less than products in the same category created by competitors. Its price is around $18 only. This cost also increases the number of people who can use it around the world to experience the world of virtual reality.
This mask is at the same time open source. Google actually makes available to all the manufacturing instructions to create one yourself.
Version 2 of the Cardboard is compatible with even more devices than its version 1. It is also more ergonomic with the addition of a click button. The sensation becomes, moreover, more immersive with larger lenses with this version.
Google Cardboard: the disadvantages
The Google Cardboard virtual reality headset is also not the best product in its field. In fact, it even has many disadvantages that should still be known. As a reminder, his body consists of 90% of cardboard. It is a fragile device that can tear, soften or worse.
This technology is not yet well perfected and controlled by the large number. Although many people have already been able to experience cheap virtual reality with the Google Cardboard, many still do not fully understand the operation. Thus, we see everywhere online that if some cannot play games with their devices, others cannot view a 360-degree image for example.
Since this is not a device exclusively produced by Google, other companies are also creating it. However, quality is often not at the rendezvous of some manufacturers even if the price seems attractive.
Google Cardboard: a virtual reality headset for whom?
Google Cardboard is, first and foremost, a product for the general public. So, you can use it to entertain you first and foremost by either playing wildly fun games or watching videos and pictures differently.
The second target audience consists of professionals. They can take full advantage of the benefits of Google Cardboard by allowing users to virtually experience their products or services. Professionals in space planning can use it to show their client a new decoration of their apartment for example. Or why not propose a virtual trip if you are a professional in this field?
In short, the Google Cardboard is intended for both individuals and professionals.
Compatible phones with Cardboard
Most smartphones on the market today are compatible with Google Cardboard. Officially, it is possible to associate his Apple phone or his device running Android with this product. Even the owners of Windows Phone can hope to use it with currently available applications.
It’s not so much compatibility that counts, but the size of your smartphone with Cardboard. You need a screen of at least 3.5 inches, a minimum size of 87 mm by 51 mm. There are also models compatible with phablettes (with a screen of 6 inches and more).
The Google Cardboard virtual reality headset is compatible with some iOS and Android devices.
Choose your viewer according to your smartphone
It is important to note that not all smartphones are compatible with the Google Cardboard. Some technical features are required to be able to enjoy virtual reality with your phone. The phone has at least an Android 4.1 or iOS 8.0 version. The larger the screen size and its definition, the more interesting the experience will be. The higher the computing power of the smartphone, the smoother the image will be.
Apart from that, however, it is imperative that the smartphone has some internal sensors. A gyroscope and a magnetometer are essential for virtual reality on version 2 of the Cardboard. Version 1 also requires a magnetometer. In general, mid-range and high-end smartphones are compatible.
However, it is important to check this compatibility beforehand because some manufacturers, like Huawei for example, do not offer all of these sensors on its recent midrange phones. You can, for example, check that your smartphone has the required sensors thanks to an application like, for example, Castro which in its Sensors tab specifies the values of each sensor.
Cardboard app: apps and videos available with Google Cardboard
The possibilities for viewing virtual reality content on a Cardboard are vast and important. In particular, you watch videos in 360 degrees and/or in 3D either on YouTube, or by using a suitable VR video player. It is also possible to consult the virtual reality version of Google Earth. The Google Cardboard also allows you to go virtual tourism and even check porn VR.
There is also a large number of applications and games compatible with the Google Cardboard. You will find besides a selection of the best Cardboard app and games here. Many Cardboard app are available for free, others are sold at a very affordable price. Note however that the free Cardboard app display a lot of ads.
Among the applications and games available for Google Cardboard, you first have the eponymous application, Cardboard. It allows you to access virtual reality with your smartphone through pre-integrated demos such as Google Eearth’s 360-degree views. Virtual Cultural Exhibit, Guided Tour (or Virtual Trip), Arctic Travel and Photo Sphere are among the apps available with.
Among the most interesting games, there is Insidious VR. He invites you to dive into the terrifying world of spirits. Fulldive VR pushes you to jump parachute, while with Fractal Combat X, you become a fighter pilot to deliver air battles.
There are now several thousand Cardboard compatible applications and games available on both Android and iOS.
Buy a mounted Google Cardboard, kit or make your own VR mask
The Google Cardboard store offers a wide selection of Cardboards in the form of a mask or glasses. You will be able to find the model adapted to your needs, desires and smartphone model here.
You will find, on this same page, the plans to tinker with your own Cardboard as well as ideas to personalize your cardboard box according to your tastes. It should also be noted that a large number of companies (newspapers, builders, shops, etc.) now offer their clients a VR viewer. In this way, they take advantage of virtual reality content that they put online.
Google Cardboard V1, V2 and after?
Google launched in 2014 its Cardboard V1 for smartphones with a screen between 4.5 and 5.2 inches. Quickly followed in 2015 by the V2 for phones with a screen between 5 and 6 inches. These two cardboard versions were a great springboard for discovering virtual reality for Google.
Even if no announcement has been made on the subject, Google could surprise his world by launching soon a Google Cardboard V3 offering higher quality and more interactivity for the user.
Nintendo takes over
It’s 2019 and the Mountain View Company does not seem to be pursuing the adventure around its cardboard headsets. Since then, she has marketed a product close to the Gear VR, the famous Daydream.
His all-cardboard mask now looks like a goodie distributed by magazines. Companies sometimes use it to highlight a 360-degree filmed video. Clearly, Google is no longer seeking to innovate in this area.
On the other hand, this self-building object inspires the Nintendo console manufacturer and video game publisher. Indeed, the Japanese group announced the commercialization on April 12, 2019 of the Nintendo Lab VR Kit. This accessory is intended for the living room console: the Switch.
The manufacturer offers several kits to introduce children to virtual reality. VR cardboard headsets in the shape of an elephant horn or guns are more reminiscent of toys. The different cardboard modules are to be assembled. Then, young players take advantage of new experiences: mini-games related to the shape of the object. From the VR Plaza, users access 64 applications.
However, this product for children over the age of 7 also allows you to browse Zelda: Breathe of The Wild in full virtual reality. Similarly, the publisher offers bonuses in VR in Super Mario Odyssey.
However, we regret the much higher price of Nintendo Lab VR Kits compared to a Google Cardboard. In any case, the Japanese firm was able to make the most of the project launched by the Web giant in 2014. If the product works, it could really democratize the VR to the general public.