What's with this Cardboard?
I discovered Cardboard while I was searching for more on Material Design. As I was browsing, I got to read a review on last year's Google I/O and I was curious why all the attendees received a piece of... well, cardboard. I got more and more intrigued about the whole concept and what it stands for that I decided to get my hands on one of them. It's that awesome.
Google Cardboard is a cheap DIY Virtually Reality Kit where you put your phone and start to watch or play in 3D through its lenses. I must say I was a bit nervous at first regarding its quality and build, but now I'm impressed: it's really fun and entertaining.
The box I received was very light. I was afraid something might be missing, but it's all there: the lens, the velcro straps, the NFC sticker, the magnets, the elastic rubber and the pre-cut cardboard. For instructions you scan the QR code and let the tutorial play.
Putting it all together is very fun (you probably can see my enthusiasm in the pictures). It's like a 3D puzzle you get to assemble and interact with. I recommend you do not skip the tutorial because it gives you tips on how to make it sturdy enough and to use it at its full potential.
The most interesting part is how the magnets work. They are like a toggle where you get to make in-app actions. It's a really smart compromise that makes the experience smooth.
I'm simply amazed how well it transforms the display. I was expecting something less impressive, but it's really, really... really nice. It invites you to discover more as you move your head on all directions. Yes, it's not static; you have to explore all the surroundings.
Be careful though, getting involved too much can make you lose control of your balance. It's not Oculus Rift, but it's still a rewarding exhibition.
There are quite a few Cardboard apps in the Google Play Store. I made a selection of those that impressed me the most on both quality and experience/gameplay.
Yes, you can play Youtube videos and view them as you were in a cinema. You can use Google voice-enabled search to get to a certain video and... around your result you can explore more suggestions.
Roller Coaster VR
At the beginning it's not that impressive, you only get to enjoy the sight seeing. But once you get to the top, there is where the fun starts. It's a real ride.
Chair in a room
This game is a real thriller. Especially when the light goes off and you are left with a flashlight with a not so good battery life. Is that kind of experience that works very well with the headphones put on (just enjoy the silence and the squitchy sounds).
Zombie Shooter VR
It's not that scary, but this game is really fun and the graphics are enjoyable. Too bad you don't have control on the player's movement and only on the camera. Shooting is done automatically when you target the threat.
How to improve it?
It's OK to try it out, but you can make it even smoother and engaging if you can add the following: Imagine playing without holding it with your hands (adding a head strap), with the headphones on and using a wireless bluetooth controller. Also be aware that your eyes will get tired so don't overuse it. Some games actually need an extra controller so I found this NES-like gamepad to be the best option (both looks and smarts).
Where to get it?
I got mine from Knox Labs and it was worth the wait (est. two weeks: from USA to Romania).
Bottom line, I recommend anyone with an Android device to test it out (there are also some kits available for iOS). With a few bucks you get to immerse in a different kind of experience. Moreover, from the looks of it, Google will invest more in this technology as they are hiring for Cardboard. We shall only see what the future holds. For me it's simple; next up is to make some HTML5/CSS3 Chrome experiments to test it out even further.
PS: Thanks Ciprian for taking the photos while I tinkered and assembled the Cardboard.
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