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Google releases its own VR device - and it's made of cardboard
Google releases its own VR device - and it's made of cardboard
June 26, 2014 | By Mike Rose

June 26, 2014 | By Mike Rose
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In terms of big-name virtual reality headsets, we have the Oculus VR, Sony's Project Morpheus... and now Google has released Cardboard, a headset literally made of cardboard.

Announced as part of Google's annual I/O developer conference, project Cardboard is "a no-frills enclosure that transforms a phone into a basic VR headset," says Google.

You can download the plans for the headset, print them onto cardboard, and then build your own headset. It's then a case of placing your mobile device into the headset, and you're away.

You will need a couple of specialized items to make it work -- two lenses, two magnets, some velcro, and a rubber band. Once you've build the device, you can then download a special app to test it out.

The app comes with Cardboard versions of Google Earth, YouTube, Street View and other such demos.

"Virtual reality has made exciting progress over the past several years," says the company. "However, developing for VR still requires expensive, specialized hardware. Thinking about how to make VR accessible to more people, a group of VR enthusiasts at Google experimented with using a smartphone to drive VR experiences."

It adds, "By making it easy and inexpensive to experiment with VR, we hope to encourage developers to build the next generation of immersive digital experiences and make them available to everyone."


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SD Marlow
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*facepalm* Can we NOT call this VR. It's a 3D viewer, and a simple image search will turn-up a ton of "dual lens + smartphone + plastic/cardboard" versions.

Scott Sheppard
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Question... what's the distinction between this and VR goggles then? Just level of quality? Cause they seem to do the same things fundamentally. Namely shut out the world and put screens directly in front of your eyes so that you can see things in 3D.

Be a happy person and be glad that a company this big is attempting to bring VR to a broader market by reducing costs. It's the principle of the thing... not necessarily the thing itself.

Karl Schmidt
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No.

This is nowhere near the same thing as a "proper" VR headset.

Proper VR = presence.

This and other 'mobile' attempts will not be able to achieve presence. (for a LONG time). Oculus can just barely do it now, with special headset hardware, after years of work, lots of smart people, and lots of money.

VR doesn't have a 'quality bar' like other things like graphics fidelity. It's basically 'not working' until you hit presence, which is a high bar requiring a lot of things to be good (graphics quality, super low latency for a bunch of things, etc etc)

See here for more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-2dQoeqVVo

If anything this will just misinform people about what VR truly can be.

Vin St John
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It sounds like you are describing a difference in "degree of quality", not "type of thing".

Amir Ebrahimi
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Deleted comment - already answered by another post

Andy Lundell
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Schmidt, you're working from a different definition of VR as anyone else.

In general, it's not really acceptable to say "Don't call this thing by its name until it reaches some standard."

This has primitive head-tracking and stereo-optic displays. It's probably better than some commercially available virtual reality gear from just five years ago.

It's using this technology to present a view of an environment that reacts to your face movements. That's pretty much VR in a nutshell.

Besides all that, you're arguing from a completely false premise. I can tell from years of experience int he VR industry that you can get a startlingly good sense of "presence" from surprisingly primitive equipment. There is no magical threshold between "not real" and "real".

Karl Schmidt
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Did you watch the Abrash talk?

Here's one screencap: http://imgur.com/KGHPSET <- how many of these things does cardboard provide?

I'm just going by the research learnings Oculus and Valve have been sharing recently.

Andy Lundell
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I watched most of it. I skipped ahead at the beginning.

What Oculus and Valve have been sharing is veiled marketing material.

Don't get me wrong. Better quality is better. Of course it is. And Oculus is doing amazing stuff at an incredible price-point. I really hope they succeed big.

But if there's a line between Real and Not Real, it's in the head of the users.

There will ALWAYS be discrepancies in any simulator. (For example, walking on a treadmill doesn't create an inner-ear sense of motion.) When you focus on the discrepancies, the illusion breaks and you're a clown wearing expensive goggles. If you focus on the stuff the works well, the illusion works and you're standing on the top of a skyscraper, or whatever.

Obviously, better and better quality helps make it easier to become immersed, but there's no finish line to cross.

I've seen people 'forget' and fall over trying to lean on things they know don't exist while wearing goggles less advanced than the current Oculus.

I'm not arguing that these cardboard things are in the same league as Oculus, but I stand by my statement that there's no magic line between VR and not VR.

Karl Schmidt
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We'll have to agree to disagree. You can already see the tech media equating cardboard and oculus, and this is my primary concern.

Amir Barak
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Why is this a concern? What's so special about the Occulus Rift that makes it the one and only solution to VR? And how will this product harm it exactly?

Tanner Mickelson
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I actually have to agree with Karl and SD Marlow on this... Maybe they worded it in a way that sounded somewhat confrontational, but they have a point. It's not really a "virtual reality" until it actually feels like a different "reality". The concept is interesting, but the quality bar isn't high enough to provide a decent level of immersion. With the Rift you've got a gaming PC providing the graphics processing, and mobile will never be able to compete with a gaming PC, or a gaming console (Project Morpheus for PS4) in terms of graphical processing power.

Karl Schmidt
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There isn't anything special about the rift per-say, they are just approaching 'reasonable' for all those factors in the slide I posted earlier. I never said it's the one and only solution to VR.

What I am saying is that from what I understand, the 'big deal' around VR is the combination of a bunch of factors (again, see the slide) that produces presence, the feeling of genuinely being in another world. Cardboard simply cannot achieve this, or any of the factors really. Mobiles phones are too slow, the screens don't update fast enough, the gyros aren't accurate or low-latency enough, etc, etc

You might try cardboard and say 'VR sucks, what a gimmick' when a more immersive experience is possible with the oculus or valve or whatever headset. Not a 'better quality' experience but actually a hugely different one.

Anyways I don't care who has the best headset. Cardboard is a neat idea but it's simply not close to where modern VR is going.

SD Marlow
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OK, let me try to expand on this... Stereo images and viewing hardware have been around since the early days of photography. Even if it seems your looking out into an actual scene, the static image stays in your field of view as you move your head around. It's my understanding that "the special VR sauce" for your smartphone takes compass and gyro changes as input to pan and tilt tiled images from Google-owned services. This is just a 360 degree stereo image set, not actual VR. Even if you add some waterfall animation to the images, it's still the same 3D viewer, all tech-eh-fied.

Interestingly though, this very thing could be used against Palmer Lucky/Oculus to show how marginal his contribution was.

Chris Rossby
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From what I understand, Karl Schmidt is correct. When new technology that can only be demonstrated to the public through it's use, is introduced to market, it needs to have a certain threshold of quality.

Exhibit A: iPhone wasn't the first touch screen smart phone.

The worst case scenario is for people to use something like this and judge the entirety of the new technology through their experience using something that makes them sick or doesn't live up to the promise.

You can see why these other companies such as SONY and Oculus are holding back on the consumer product, it's precisely because of this reason.

Of course this is a special scenario that only applies for products that cannot be explained or demonstrated on TV or video and has to be experienced in person.

One more thing,

At present it is impossible to have accurate positional tracking without an external frame of reference such as a camera fixed in space.

Tyler Shogren
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Spartan commentary on the MacGuffin of the day.

Nick Sercaianu
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Hmz...call me the offtopic guy but a weird thought just crossed through my mind.

Last time when Google made a good joke was back in 2010 if I recall correctly when all the top predators were devouring the Nortel carcass (namely bid fighting over the Nortel patents). At that point everybody was interested in what would Google bid and acquire. What Google did? Bid with multiples of pi, Brun's Constant and Meissel-Mertens. What was Google doing later? They bought Motorola mobile.

Ladies and Gentlemen, when Google is joking with something big, please do bother and try looking behind the smoke barrier. The real deal might be elsewhere.

James Coote
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I tried a similar device (but made of 3D printed plastic) the other week and it was great! Not from a technology perspective, but just that it was so much lighter, easier to put on, no wires in the way. Yes it's cheap and gimmicky and after 15 minutes your head will be spinning. But that's long enough for most casual players.

And in many ways, that's more exciting than something like Rift or Morpheus, because it forces you to think in terms of different (shorter) experiences

paul tricklebank
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here's a thought... instead of making it out of cardboard why didn't Google just make it out of glass?

James Coote
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Just realised. Google are investing a lot in Google Glass and Project Tango as serious, premium products. I think Cardboard is almost their way of cheapening VR, saying VR is cheap novelty value, and that AR is where it's really at.

Michael DeSantiago
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Yes im concerned more about AR than i am about VR. On Johnny Quest VR seems to be awesome but the fundamental flaw is moving around, then VR companies give you a move stick, ok so now i have to use a stick to move and i can only "look" around with a VR headset on. So i have this screen really close to my eyes straining them just so i can look around with my head? And i cant move? Is that really Virtual Reality or is it just what we can do so far?

If those are the ground of current VR headsets then ide rather have a big tv curved around me. Or be in a giant room with screens in the walls and ceilings, OR WE COULD SKIP GENERATIONS OF BS AND JUST GO WITH AR. AR glasses would be awesome. Imagine AR glasses and you and a friend are watching your pokemon battle in the middle of the street, Or whatever fantasy you choose to watch go down in the real world that you dont have to generate, just add on to.

SD Marlow
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Yeah, an AR version of Titanfall would be great, right up until you or your friend run out in front of a car and get splattered. No, I'm afraid the REAL future is in holographic projection, and the porn industry will lead the way as far as device sales go.

Michael DeSantiago
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BTW i went to the future already and Oculus will fail.

Bruno Xavier
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Now THIS is worth 2B dollars.

Grant Stanton
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@Andy << Schmidt, you're working from a different definition of VR as anyone else. >>

I would say he is working from the only definition of VR that matters.

The precise reason that the VR industry has suddenly caught fire is "Presence". Without it you have something you may choose to call "VR" but it is without question just simple simulation involving various degrees of realism.

The technology and research available now makes consumer VR with "Presence" possible.

Our brains do in fact have a standard, a limit, a threshold for input at which the brain chooses to consider something "reality". This is why latency and fast precision tracking are critical, arguably more so than pretty graphics. Any lag greater than 20 Milliseconds in tracking, most people get motion sick and the "Presence" is immediately lost.

So yes...this Cardboard VR HMD is "VR" as we might define it 5-10 years ago...an aspiration toward presence? But it is not VR as Oculus VR, for example, would define it. They are delivering VR with "Presence"...beyond the critical limit at which the brain dismisses it as "simulation"...creating an experience where despite knowing you are wearing a headset, your brain tells you that you are undoubtedly standing at the edge of a cliff and your knees wobble. The majority of what humans perceive as "Reality" is not decided by our "thinking centers" but by deeper input systems. True VR convinces the unconscious perception systems that VR is reality, despite our higher level thinking centers knowing better. Presence.

VR as a general technology historically might be a spectrum of varying degrees of realism, but VR with "presence" is unique in that it crosses that critical threshold. That threshold is unique to VR. That is why places like Oculus VR employ perceptual psychologists and researchers, that is why latency and insanely precise head tracking are fundamental issues. There are a few different literal limits that must be crossed (example 20 Milliseconds latency) to "flip" the switch in our brain that validates "Reality" vs. looking at a screen. It is the crossing of that "presence" threshold that has suddenly set the VR space on fire.

Presence.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxbh-TM5yNc

peepa lala
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first i though its a joke by google but after i buy one from googlecardboard.com and i wants to tell you guys this product it awesome and google totally rocks .


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