If this DIY answer to the next generation of immersive gaming and multimedia consumption had been announced on the first day of April, it would have been seen as one of Google's best pranks yet.
But the project is an actual, not a virtual, reality and while companies like Oculus VR are burning through funds designing headsets and working with Samsung to source the best lightweight, high definition OLED displays currently available, Google has been playing with scissors, elastic bands and magnets instead.
And the upshot is that while the Oculus Rift is still in development, Cardboard is ready to go and even has a selection of apps. Announced officially at the Google I/O developers conference on Wednesday by Sundar Pichai, senior vice president responsible for Android, the headset is one you construct yourself -- from cardboard -- and
which replaces a fancy OLED screen with your existing Android handset.However, it's not quite that simple. As well as downloading the design templates, there's a list of items to source that includes two lenses with a 40mm focal distance; a neodymium ring magnet and ceramic disk magnet; some Velcro; an NFC tag and, by extension, an Android smartphone that supports NFC. And all of this is in addition to the cardboard itself.
Once the headset has been constructed, install the cardboard app on your handset, tap the handset against the NFC tag and slot it into the headset. Then you can watch YouTube videos, take a virtual tour around Paris or immerse yourself in an interactive story about a hat.
Ok, this doesn't sound as exciting as some of the things that Sony's Project Morpheus or of course the aforementioned Oculus Rift promise, but it's not meant to be.
Instead, the point of Cardboard is to make VR accessible to as many consumers and developers as possible.
As the project's homepage explains: "Virtual reality has made exciting progress over the past several years. However, developing for VR still requires expensive, specialized hardware. Thinking about how to make VR accessible to more people, a group of VR enthusiasts at Google experimented with using a smartphone to drive VR experiences."
And the result, cardboard should eliminate a host of these issues by making coding simple and the resulting apps and features appealing to potentially anyone with a smartphone, some cardboard and a pair of scissors to hand.