Chapter 6. VR Everywhere: Google Cardboard for Low-Cost Mobile Virtual Reality

So far we have focused on developing consumer VR for high-end hardware such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Samsung Gear VR. These systems can be expensive, costing from several hundred to a few thousand dollars after you factor in peripherals and, potentially, purchasing a new smartphone or computer to power them. Given these prices, the top end of consumer virtual reality is still for enthusiastic early adopters, not the mass market. It would be great if there was a lower-cost VR option for the average consumer, and for developers who aren’t ready to make a big financial commitment. Thankfully, we have one such option in Google’s Cardboard VR.

Google introduced Cardboard VR in 2014 to enable low-cost virtual reality using existing smartphones. The idea was that, by simply dropping a mobile phone into a cardboard box costing about US$2 in parts, anyone can experience VR. Google’s original Cardboard VR unit, which debuted at the I/O conference in May 2014, is pictured in Figure 6-1.

By Google’s accounting, as of early 2015 more than a million Cardboard headsets had already been distributed—a number that far exceeds the existing installed base of all the high-end systems combined. As we will see later in this chapter, applications written for Cardboard can also be used with several other types of “drop-in” virtual reality stereo viewers, making the potential market for Cardboard applications even larger. ...

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