Google reveals its Cardboard VR headset – why not make your own?

A little surprise at the Google I/O conference last night came in the form of a flat 7-inch cardboard square. When opened up and a compatible smartphone slotted into the front compartment the user has a basic but functional VR headset! All the attendees at the I/O got one of these for free and in some ways it might be even more fun and entertaining than the free smartwatch they also received.

Cardboard, almost ready to go

Cardboard, almost ready to go

Cardboard creates “virtual reality on your smartphone,” with a basic cardboard structure within which your smartphone sits. Other than this structural component, DIYers need just a few other components as follows:

Some lenses, some magnets, Velcro, elastic bands and an optional NFC tag (all available from Amazon). For your project you will also need a ruler, glue, scissor and a craft knife – but most people already have these in their office, shed, workshop or garage. Google kindly supplies the templates for the cutting and crafting here.

Cardboard components - sans smartphone

Cardboard components – sans smartphone

What really makes Cardboard special though is the experimental software VR toolkit which is documented here. Google also have supplied a dedicated demo app to show you the capabilities of your Cardboard, which you can download from Google Play. This demo allows the user to experience the following VR scenarios; an earth flyover powered by Google Earth, a Street View tour, watch YouTube on a ‘big screen’, view and interact with 3D models and more.

Cardboard, amazes a user!

Cardboard, amazes a user!

While Cardboard isn’t a serious competitor to the likes of Oculus VR I have seen rumours of a similar – but better built – Samsung project which will allow Galaxy device owners to insert their device into a headset for some kind of VR experience. TechCrunch reported just over a month ago that Samsung has been working on a VR system powered by its Galaxy devices. Hopefully that will be something more than a plastic erm… Cardboard.

Before you set off down to your workshop to start crafting your own ‘Cardboard’, please check your smartphone compatibility; the Google Nexus 4 and 5, Motorola Moto X, Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5, Samsung Galaxy Nexus are said to be fully compatible and the HTC One, Motorola Moto G and Samsung Galaxy S3 only partially compatible at this time.

Kai-Li Yang

Kai-Li is a tech enthusiast with an in-depth knowledge of mobile technology, music technology and the entertainment industry. She hails from Taiwan and helps Tech Assimilate to erm... assimilate, all the latest tech news and trends from East Asia. Kai-Li Yang on Google+

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