Google Cardboard: Virtual Reality on a Budget

I've been working and playing in virtual worlds / virtual reality for a number of years. For a long time, virtual adventurers like me have fantasized about a future where everyone had access to "VR goggles" where you could escape into a simulated space from anywhere.

Vr goggles

These kinds of VR rigs were sorta cool, but unwieldy and expensive. "Gargoyles" is the pejorative term for people who wore these kinds of rigs in the seminal scifi novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. 

Now with the broad penetration of smart phone technology, and the increase in high speed wireless data access, we are closer than ever to the vision of accessible virtual reality. All we need is the googles.

Enter Google Cardboard. This is Google's ultra low-priced version of virtual reality goggles. Google isn't manufacturing them, they are simply releasing the schematics and SDK to the world and letting you print out your own at home or go to a third-party vendor to sell you one.

My sister and brother-in-law got me a pair of the $22 DODOCASE VR glasses for Christmas, which I finally got around to putting together. It's actually kind of fun to assemble, if you like origami or putting together Ikea furniture. I recommend watching the instructional video, because the written instructions were pretty obtuse to me.

Dodocase parts

Once you get the goggles assembled, you simply slip your phone into the front of the assembly to have it display images to your eyes (and audio to your ears.)

Of course , you need to load up either webpages or apps on your phone to properly display 3d imagery to the goggles. I have an iPhone 5, so the offerings were somewhat limited. Here's what I've tried out so far:

I found the Zombie game sufficiently scary, the roller coaster a lot of fun, and the Google test pages interesting demos.

Next step is looking into developing for the Google Cardboard environment. It looks like several of these demos were built on the Unity3D engine, which I've started looking into. 

Any other demos, games or simulations that you've found that are worth trying out?

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