Google held the annual I/O conference yesterday and had some very interesting announcements on stage, a few of which I’ll be sharing with you today. But by far the biggest announcement that caught my eye was one of Google’s cheapest projects – Google Cardboard. Basically, you take your smartphone, put it into a cardboard cradle that looks like a Oculus Rift headset with lenses for a wrap-around feel and play with some really fun augmented reality apps.
Attendees at the I/O conference were given thin cardboard boxes and asked to toy with them. The box folds out to reveal the headset and it needs to be laid flat, torn off on one end and folded up again, this time according to the instructions on the inside. Your mobile phone goes into a cradle and is secured with an elastic band. You’ll need something pretty modern to make Cardboard work – either a Nexus 4 or 5, a HTC One, a Moto X or G, Samsung Galaxy S3, S4 or S5 or a Galaxy Nexus. The requirement is that the phone must have buttons on the right-hand side for use with the sliding switch and the camera and flash needs to fit into the cut-out at the front.
What does it do? Well the Cardboard VR UI gives you an augmented reality interface, driven by the toggle switch on the side of the headset as well as navigated by your movements in the real-world. The accelerometer in your phone is used for motion detection and it ties in with the camera to so some pretty interesting things like the included Windy Day app, in which you follow a virtual mouse in your surrounding environment, much like what the Playstation Vita already does. The Cardboard kit can be downloaded as a template online so you can make your own and the Cardboard demo is already available on Google Play. It is 188MB in size though and requires Android 4.1 or newer.
The apps included in the demo are:
- Earth: Fly where your fancy takes you on Google Earth.
- Tour Guide: Visit Versailles with a local guide.
- YouTube: Watch popular YouTube videos on a massive screen.
- Exhibit: Examine cultural artifacts from every angle.
- Photo Sphere: Look around the photo spheres you’ve captured.
- Street Vue: Drive through Paris on a summer day.
- Windy Day: Follow the story (and the hat) in this interactive animated short from Spotlight Stories.
Check out Tech Crunch’s video below of their hands-on with Cardboard. Oculus, you can pat yourself on the back for pushing the tech world in this direction.