While there’s been plenty of excitement surrounding the imminent release of the  Oculus Rift, the virtual reality 3D immersive headset’s $350 price tag is keeping many people from making the early leap into VR. Now however, thanks to the Google Cardboard app, anyone with simple cardboard assembly skills, an Android phone and a few bucks can have their own a virtual reality headset.

As noted by CBS News, Google Cardboard was introduced at the recent Google I/O 2014 tech summit. Attendees received a scored and folded cardboard visor resembling a classic children’s Viewmaster and, while at first glance it resembled a child’s garage version of the Oculus Rift with a magnet attached, the fun begins when users insert an Android phone equipped with the Google Cardboard app. That’s when that cardboard contraption turns into a virtual reality device with split screen view creating a 3D image, a sliding button that creates the sensation of screen tapping selections and, unlike the Rift, the ability to enjoy Google Cardboard virtual reality untethered to a computer or game console.

Google already has a number of demo experiences available in the app, including the ability to swoop and fly in Google Earth from Earth orbit on down, while navigating via your head’s orientation. You can also view YouTube videos on a giant screen display,  tour foreign cities with a local guide and more. In addition, a variety of third-party, 3D-ready apps are also available at the Google Play store. Just do a search for “VR” and let the fun begin. And, if you want to develop your own Google Cardboard app, the company has posted a VR Toolkit here.

On top of all that, the Google Cardboard app is free, with plans to make your own viewer free online here, and the components cost less than $20. If you’re not the do-it-yourself type, Unofficial Cardboard offers fully assembled Google Cardboard viewers for $29.99 and ready-to-assemble kits for just $19.99. Or choose one of the other options available on the web and all you need to enter the world of virtual reality is an Android phone running Android 4.1 or higher.

While virtual reality certainly represents a step into the future, Google Cardboard is, in a way, a step back to a simpler time, as the company that began in a Menlo Park, California garage has now given anyone affordable, DIY access to the world of virtual reality, just by stepping into their own garage.

Photo credit: Google

Video credit: Android Authority

 

 

 

 

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