cardboard

Uh Oh: Google Jumps Into VR With Cardboard

on Wednesday, Jun. 25th

Well, we can’t say that today’s Google I/O conference keynote didn’t have some surprises.

To be certain there wasn’t anything as world-turning as the announcement of Glass, in fact the offerings this time out–another attempt to take over TV screens, smart watches–almost look like Google is out of big ideas. Yet everyone at the event was given a cardboard box which might be the most high tech thing ever: a DIY setup that turns Android smart phones into virtual reality devices.

The app that allows all this to happen is called Cardboard and Google has released both the app and instructions on how to build your own viewer to the public.

I’m torn over this. On the one hand this definitely gives people and developers who are excited about virtual reality something to play with. The DIY nature means that those who bother to build their own Cardboard viewer will know just how “alpha” the tech is. The problem is that VR has some serious issues when it isn’t working near 100%. Cybersickness isn’t just about the possibility of puking: it can lead to some serious aftereffects when exposures are long and users are unaccustomed to virtual environments.

In so many ways the last thing VR evangelists need are super-cheap viewers in the hands of the general public. It has more potential to turn people off than it does to get the general public fired up. Given how badly Google botched the public relations rollout of Glass it doesn’t surprise me that they’re diving in with both feet and a smile on The Next Big Thing. It just disappoints me that the company hasn’t seemed to have learned the lesson that public betas of hardware aren’t a wise bet.

Corey McCall with the video game controller that measures the level of excitement in the player. Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

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