If you loved your View-Master as a kid, you are going to love Google Cardboard. Cardboard is an app for your phone that you use with a cardboard viewing device to see images in 3D. Google announced a new version of Cardboard on Thursday at its I/O developer conference.
Cardboard is being lauded as a virtual reality device that costs $4. An article in Wired claims that it's "a million miles away from the best VR demos out there; Oculus, HTC's Vive, and Project Morpheus all blow Cardboard out of the water-which they should, because they're not made of cardboard. But Cardboard more than accomplishes what it's supposed to: It transports you."
In one Cardboard app that you can download, you can ride a rollercoaster. In other, you are right next to Paul McCartney as he plays piano.
Cardboard is so simple that it seems a little silly. Comments on a New York Times article about it show that some people find the idea itself silly. Rangerdoggy from Minneapolis, Minn., writes "The Cardboard Virtual reality? What a stupid idea! Some idiot will buy it. You already see in 3D folks! It would look so pathetic to wear a cell phone in from of your eyes. Lets get with real reality and the world will be a better place."
Luke G. from Stamford, Conn., writes, "How cool is that? Now we can isolate ourselves completely AND cook our frontal lobes simultaneously! The genius of Google never stops."
Cardboard is meant to be a toy, in many respects, but that doesn't mean Google doesn't have plans for it. An inexpensive virtual reality device opens up new applications for virtual reality for a larger audience.
According to the New York Times, Google has developed "a 360-degree camera that looks like a chandelier rigged with 16 GoPro video recorders, and currently has about a dozen of them filming sights around the world. When run through Google's software and processors, the footage will turn into a virtual reality rendering that tries to mimic the view from a human eye. Google said it would allow people to start uploading virtual reality videos to YouTube this summer."
Google is also using Cardboard to create an educational product called Expeditions, which allows teachers to take students on virtual reality fieldtrips to different places in the world. It is in use in about 100 classrooms.
There could be applications for technology like this in video games and broadcast TV. Mark Zuckerberg has said he believed virtual reality could be the next computing platform.
According to the New York Times, soon "virtual reality experiences could feature in everything from business meetings to doctor's appointments."