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Whilst Oculus Rift has been great to raise awareness of Virtual Reality it has several problems right now for people actually wanting to use and deploy VR solutions to their clients, customers, students and employees.
- The full consumer version is only going out in small quantities, and is already 2 months late on delivery
- It needs an expensive PC to run on, and laptops are more or less a non-no
- Setting it all up on different PCs and keeping up to date with drivers etc is non-trivial
Google Cardboard and its derivatives have now provided a solution to this. Cardboard (as its name implies) is actually just a folded bit of cardboard with a couple of cheap lenses, and a single button. You slide in your mobile phone (Android or iPhone) and run a Cardboard compatible VR app, hold it up to your eyes and you're away. There are a number of immediate advantages:
- You can buy ready-made Google Cardboard, and kits for just £10 - just search Amazon
- You can buy loads of them right now
- Your employees/students etc can just use their own phones - making a considerable cost-saving
- There is no set up, or configuration, so its a much more consistent and reliable experience than the Oculus
- The graphic quality is typically as good as integrated headsets to most users
- If buying in volume you can get company branded Cardboards
There are also, of course, a few downsides:
- You have to hold it to your eyes - or get a strap, but the cardboard can be too flimsy to hold the strap, but more sturdy versions, including plastic "cardboards" are now coming out, some with integral straps/headsets
- Input is limited to a single button press (since you've no hands to hold a controller) - but some good UI approaches for this are being developed
- The field of view is slightly more limited than the Oculus (and certainly more than the final consumer Oculus)
- There is no lateral head tracking (but anyway you need to set up an extra sensor for that with Oculus)
- You need to rely on someone to download the app you want onto their phone
Overall though Cardboard provides a far more here-and-now VR experience that the Oculus - pick it up, stare in wonder, explore a bit, move on. As such it's ideal for bite-sided introductory pieces of VR, and as more robust "headsets" come out it will also be far more suitable to the longer immersion pieces that we'd currently do in Oculus Rift.
We've identified 3 main types of virtual reality application, all of which you can do on Google Cardboard:
- The photosphere - quick and easy to make, putting the user at the centre of a spherical photo and letting them look all around and take a point by point virtual tour of a location
- The object viewer/product catalogue - looking at objects in a 3D space, they appear to "hang" just in front of you, and can be rotated, zoomed and animated, and form the basis of a virtual catalogue or heritage/art object tour
- The site explorer - letting you explore a location, task or subject in detail and with a high degree of freedom and agency as you move around the 3D model of a location, and even interact with other avatars - driven by other users or bots
|The Photosphere||The Object Viewer||The Site Explorer|
This blog post on 3 Types of VR App provides more information.
We already have our first Google Cardboard apps up on the Android Play Store. We have each of the the main app types above already developed, so creating new Cardboard experiences for clients is very cost-effective (just a few thousands pounds - the same price as a glossy brochure). Just some ideas of how organisations could use Cardboard include:
- Brand experiences for pop-up stands in shopping centres, transport interchanges etc
- Product demos for trade-stands and exhibitions
- Product catalogues to let clients explore your products in full 3D
- Historic "as was" explorations and no-touch artifact examination for heritage centres
- Simple educational and training experiences
- Virtual location tours for property developers, venues and holiday companies
We can develop the application (for iOS or Android or both), place it on the App Stores if required or install it on your own phones, source branded or unbranded Cardboard headsets in any quantity, train your staff, and help you use VR to bring your virtual experiences to your customers, clients, employees or students.
If you'd like to talk to us about how your organisation or brand could use Google Cardboard then give us a call on 0121 250 5678, or email us at email@example.com, or use our contact form.