Welcome to Affordable Augmented Reality
Last summer, Google announced its launch of “Google Cardboard”. At first, the idea was mocked and critics were fairly skeptical due to it being… Well, cardboard. But that hasn’t stumped it at all. With half a million sales in California, the Google Cardboard really is starting to take-off. And with various companies alongside Google showing great interest and purpose in the product, it seems that the augmented reality tool is starting to make headway.
So what is it? The concept really isn’t hard to grasp at all. Turn your existing smartphone into a viewer which lets you interact with the app via moving your head while wearing the glasses. One minute you could be taking a tour round the Taj Mahal via Google Earth, next you’re flying over the Sahara Desert in a flying simulator.
The workings of it all, as you’d expect from a sturdy piece of cardboard are fairly simple, and that’s just fine! If the product works, does something new and is still simple to use and maintain, then nobody should be concerned in the slightest.
If you’re familiar with the Oculus Rift, the Google Cardboard looks and works in a similar way. Curved lenses help to give the full 3d effect while widening the viewers screen to allow for a cinema-like experience.
The viewer also has a circular piece of metal on the left side which becomes a slider, effectively taking over the touch feature of your phone while inside the cardboard. The metal ring works by using a magnet on the other side of it which allows it to be pressed down, and then will immediately pop-up. A Real old school twist to an otherwise futuristic tech (other than the cardboard).
Google Cardboard allows the user to immerse themselves fully into a 3d world, for less than $30. Many app developers are already jumping on board too as the inexpensive idea is certainly yet to see glory days, despite the great start.
Games such as Caaaaardboard! which is available through the Play Store takes the existing game “AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! and converts it into Augmented Reality. Caaaaardboard! Allows the player to fall through various stages in a game where dodging and manoeuvring round obstructions is the objective of the game.
Other apps allow for other experiences though, not just gaming. Even YouTube has been remastered for the AR future. Now you can watch videos those videos of cute kittens clumsily falling off kitchen tops or the next “Epic Fails” video in a whole new 3d way. Navigation around the app is also straightforward and laid-back. Simply steer through related videos or the home page using nothing else but your vision as the keypad.
Google themselves have actually released an app called “Cardboard” , which acts as a crash course for those just starting out on the AR journey. The app essentially works as a host of other apps all-in one place. Google Earth heads back into the spotlight with great flying features to enhance the experience for those of us that are fascinated by seeing the other side of the world, all from our living room, or even if you’d just like to fly down on your back yard, maybe see what the neighbours have been up to, it’s all possible.
Other apps with the Cardboard app include Versaille, YouTube, Exhibit, Photo Sphere and Windy day. Windy day takes on a more childish, playful aspect within the AR concept. The story-telling journey from a hat’s perspective in the interactive animated short from Motorola’s Spotlight Stories.
What’s also interesting though is that Google have willingly opened up the technology and are taking a Tesla-like approach in terms of welcoming all into using their ideas and technology.
My take on it is this; Google know that the concept isn’t terribly complex but has the potential to grow into something very, very big. So get all the small time developers as well as the bigger developers to pitch in and grow their ideas and interests alongside the Google Cardboard. Give users a solid stream of increasingly high quality apps and games and the rest is history.
In one of my previous articles I talked about the Google Glass. I touched on how developers weren’t being inspired into designing apps and there didn’t seem to be too much interest from Google to create the high-grossing games an apps they would have once envisioned. So it looks like Google have learned a thing or two from that, the so far success of the Google Cardboard would also suggest that.
I think that the Google Cardboard is perfect for many reasons. But mainly because of how inexpensive it is. All you need is a smartphone, which the majority of us already own anyway, so you can’t really count that as expenditure. The other cost is below $30 for the cardboard surround that is essential. DODOcase, Unofficial Cardboard, I Am Cardboard and Know Lab all supply via their website.
However, you don’t have to spend anything at all. Fancy yourself as a bit of a DIY guy? You can download the templates from Google directly along with some bits and pieces every dad will have in the garage somewhere and cutout some cardboard which can easily be picked up at the local supermarket, rendering the Google Cardboard virtually free!
In summary, Google Cardboard is starting to snowball and we should expect it to see a momentum start to slowly build. Cheap & high quality is always bound to attract attention. It will be interesting to see whether Apple can conjure up anything in return. The iPhones can work within the Cardboard, but without all the necessary functions to give the full experience that Android users are able to achieve. It wouldn’t be past Apple to create something bigger, sturdier and suited for iPhone users. But I highly doubt it would be as cheap as the Google Cardboard.