Over the last few weeks we've finally had time to start playing with Google Cardboard - and I must say we are impressed. Whereas Oculus DK1 was great, but then DK2 was such a pain that we dread getting it out of the cupboard Google Cardboard is a joy to use, and might even drive me to buy an Android phone!
For those that aren't familiar with Cardboard it IS just a cardboard holder (and a couple of lenses) for your smartphone. You can build one yourself (details at https://www.google.com/get/cardboard/get-cardboard/), or buy a kit for about £10 on Amazon. Then fold the eye hood over, slide your mobile phone in and away you go. The phone's sensors are used to do the basic rotational head-tracking, and there's a single button on the box which triggers a single touch to the screen, and that's it.
What stunned us at first was the quality. With a MotoX its about the same as DK2, and with a Samsung Galaxy S6 it feels better than DK2. You don't get lateral head tracking, which needs an extra sensor anyway on the Oculus, but that's hardly vital. The big downside is that you have to hold the box in place with your hands (the strap that came with ours was useless), so you can't hold a game controller or joystick to control your movement. However the big upside is that you just have to hold the box in place with your hands! Just pick up and go. No complex PC configurations, no leads running everywhere and trying to peek out from under the headset to see the keyboard. Just hold it to your eyes and you are away! Combine this immediacy with the fact that anyone could have hundreds of these available ($10 each and bring-your-own-phone) in a class or business and all of a sudden VR seems much more feasible right now from a business point of view.
The big technical challenge initially is how to design the UI. You only have gaze and one button, and it's interesting that the most common solution at the moment is actually the same as we developed for the Oculus Rift version of Daden Campus - if you stare at something it becomes active, and they either stare a bit longer and it activates, or it waits for the key press to activate. Simple. Using this model even movement becomes easy to implement, stare at you feet to start moving, you walk in the direction you are looking so you can steer as you go, look at your feet again to stop.
We're now working up our first Cardboard demo app which we should have available in the next few weeks, and then we'll do a Cardboard version of Daden Campus and build Cardboard support into all our demos and projects from then on. I'll then have to have a Cardboard on me whenever I go to events and meetings, and the Android phone to go with it!
All we now need is a simple head-frame to give you the proper hands-free for when you need it, something like a cross-platform Samsung VR Gear, or better still a low cost option like the Durovis or XG VR.
If you'd like to read more about VR then download our white paper on Virtual Reality, and if you'd like to have a demo, or would like us to create a VR experience for you, your students, employees or customers then just get in touch.