Smartphones have been around for nearly a decade at this point. The revolutionary gadget has gained so much traction that it’s nearly impossible to go a day without seeing one, whether it’s your own or somebody else’s. It’s rare to come across a person who doesn’t have a smartphone these days.
Given that so many people own one already (not to mention how far smartphones have come in terms of performance compared to earlier smartphones, so the need to upgrade often isn’t as crucial) selling a new smartphone to somebody isn’t as easy as it used to be. Because of this, the next natural step is to push other smart gadgets to consumers. In the past couple of years alone we’ve seen a push for new smart gadgets such as smartwatches, fitness bands, smart glasses, virtual reality headsets, and more. Despite the smartphone market being so saturated at this point, there’s still a lot going on in terms of accessories to accompany a smartphone, and it can be hard to keep up with what’s what.
So when I started hearing more and more about cardboard goggles or viewers, I didn’t think it was anything more than an elaborate joke. I would come across headlines that talked about cardboard this, Google Cardboard that, and I was certain that when I read the article it would just be a joke about the current state of accessory smart gadgets – virtual reality headsets to be more specific, given that the concept is still very much in its infancy when it comes to its development. As it turns out, Google Cardboard and cardboard virtual reality viewers weren’t supposed to be a joke at all; it just so happened that cardboard viewers made for a surprisingly cheap introduction to the world of virtual reality, so long as you had a smartphone.
I don’t know why it took me so long to try it out. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been focusing so hard on the “premium” aspect of the industry, expecting materials to be high quality and expensive, or because I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that cardboard could actually do a decent job replicating virtual reality. My skepticism led me to be stingy with my money, and although $25 (the price of Google Cardboard) isn’t much to some, to me it wasn’t something I really wanted to spend on… you know, cardboard.
However, as luck would have it I was able to snag a free cardboard virtual viewer (not Google’s) which arrived in the mail earlier this week. The viewer was easily set up within minutes, and I downloaded a couple of apps to try out with my new cardboard companion. I braced myself for disappointment.
But this thing actually worked, and it worked really well for what little it was able to do.
I downloaded the Google Cardboard app. Although my viewer wasn’t Google Cardboard, I was able to work around it for a bit. Using the viewer I was able to do a 360 view of the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum, visited a 3D gallery of old artifacts, toyed around with the “Kaleidoscope” feature, and I even helped a woman cure her depression by zapping brain neurons with an app called InMind VR.
Admittedly, I wasn’t very bright about it initially and I did all of this turning and swinging around while standing up, and knocked into a couple of things before I decided to just sit down. Still, I was fascinated with the fact that this cardboard viewer (with glass lenses) actually worked. I am now thoroughly excited for the future of virtual reality, particularly because people who don’t have tons of money to spend on elaborate accessories can still experience virtual reality with something as simple as cardboard. I went from being skeptical about the product to using it for the better part of two hours, and I’m excited to see what apps will support cardboard in the future.