In the past week or so, you’ve probably heard about Google Cardboard, Google’s lovably wry answer to the Oculus Rift. The Rift, of course, is a gadget that has gotten millions of dollars in funding and a multi-billion dollar Facebook buyout, and will cost hundreds of dollars at launch. Google Cardboard is a piece of cardboard with a couple of special lenses and a place to put a smartphone. Snickers and high fives were no doubt had.
The cool thing is that Google Cardboard is no joke—the rig actually provides a virtual reality experience when you use it with a smartphone and the Cardboard app. Well, now you can get a knock-off cardboard VR rig, and yes, we’re living in a time when that’s a real thing.
Patrick Buckley, co-founder of DODOcase, has teamed up with Frederic Lardinois to write the Virtual Reality Beginner’s Guide. The book takes you on a 40-page journey through the history of VR, but the decoder ring in this box of cereal is the VR Smartphone Viewer Toolkit. The toolkit includes the cardboard frames and the biconvex lenses that make the whole setup work. The frames also feature capacitive click technology for control, and you can even slap an NFC tag on them to make pairing with your smartphone easier.
Best of all, these work with any smartphone. Well, almost any. Any smartphone that can run the Google Cardboard app can be used with these, so, as is too often the case, apologies to anyone who has something other than an iPhone or an Android phone. If you can get the app, you can stroll through Google Earth images in VR, or get really, really immersed in some YouTube videos. Paltry offerings so far, but the app is based on open-source technology, so this figures to just be the beginning, with a specialized store already being set up for third-party VR apps.
This kit will be a whole lot cheaper than a Rift will be (although, as should be noted, features like head tracking and positional tracking will be absent). It’s also a lot cheaper than the Samsung Gear VR, another device like Cardboard that uses a smartphone (the Note 4) to power a VR experience. The Virtual Reality Beginner’s Guide will be available on October 28 for $26—virtual reality on a budget!