Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Google's cardboard vision

A piece of technology has been recently released that makes me very excited - it's Google Cardboard!  With a plain name (and an ugly, ugly look) like that it's a surprisingly interesting concept.  Basically Google is making a play in the VR headset area, similar to Occulus Rift and whatever Sony is creating for the PS4.

What is exciting about this is that Google is releasing a development platform which uses your existing Android phone as the screen, you supply the headset, or more accurately, assemble it yourself from bits and pieces of very plain technology - cardboard, magnets and rubber bands (Mad Max style).  You're essentially making a stereoscope, and the sensors on the phone will allow the display to change based on your head tilt etc.  They've released the plans to build one and an SDK.

While it's possible to do the whole thing yourself, you'll still need to get lenses suitable for allowing your eyes to focus on something that's really close up.  Not having enough time on my hands to hunt for them, I've ordered the whole thing online through DodoCase - they're clearly making a pretty penny out of this, but what the hell.  Trading time for money. I am eagerly awaiting it's arrival.  They've clearly experienced a rush, so it's currently 4-6 weeks for delivery.  Not sure if I can wait that long, there is a chance I end up buying the requisite parts separately.

Not sure what I would code for it, really anything will do, doesn't even have to be super interactive.  I've no experience working on the Android (I'm a dyed-in-the-wool .NET developer) for this price tag, there's no question I'm jumping up to get a chance to experience the sci-fi dream of VR.  Space shooter anyone?

It's worth noting that this is not a new idea.  Most recently I saw it in a whimsical XKDC cartoon:

It's a smart move by Google.  Release a cheap platform that developers can immediately start coding for, while they work out a proper stand-alone headset.  When the headset hits, there will be an array of available apps.  There is a demo app from Google in the Play Store, ready for you to use your cardboard headset on.

Exciting times ahead!