Amongst Android developers, Google has made a bit of a reputation for handing out some killer swag at its annual Google I/O developer conferences in San Francisco.
Yesterday at I/O 2014, we met the next major release of the company’s mobile operating system: Android L and with it we learnt about Google’s new Material Design language, the existence of new Android Wear devices and how Google wants to tackle your car and take another crack at making its way onto your TV. But when it came to the freebees, developers were thrown a curveball in the form of Google Cardboard.
In the past I/O-goers have received, smartphones, tablets and Chromebooks, not an innocuous cardboard package (they did also receive the promise of two Android Wear devices each so they still did OK). At the time the gift of cardboard suggested that Google’s standards were slipping, but in truth, this little package can be transformed into a do-it-yourself Oculus Rift of sorts.
Using a pre-cut cardboard body folded together, Velcro, a magnet, an elastic band, a pair of lenses and an Android smartphone (Google has a list compatible smartphones on the Cardboard site) you can create an immersive 3D experience right out of the box, literally.
Google Cardboard works with an app created as part of the company’s 20% project and is available to download from the Google Play Store. Google’s even opened up an SDK so developers can make their own Android-friendly AR apps. You can peruse Google Street View, follow along with the Windy Day animated short, watch YouTube and more.
Whilst we were pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of this concept from a company known for its bleeding edge technology, it seemed all too familiar, and then we remembered…
Back in 2009, when Recombu was fresh-faced and stepping into the big, wide mobile-technology world for the first time, we used an Android smartphone, some card, glue, rubber bands and some safety goggles to create an AR headset of our own.
Using the second Android smartphone to ever be released, the HTC Magic, we made use of the accelerometer and Google’s then new Street View feature to browse around the world. The 3D gubbins that Google Cardboard features weren’t possible with Android 1.5 Cupcake, not to mention the app hadn’t been designed for 3D viewing, but the resemblance is striking. Using the video above or by heading to Google’s Cardboard micro-site you can make either of these VR headsets for yourself – our design is a simpler and easier to make if you’re interested.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and in this instance we’d have to agree. You’re welcome Google.