Google Cardboard brings VR to your smartphone

With just a few bits of cardboard and some special lenses you can turn your smartphone into an immersive 3D viewer…

10 Mar 2016

Your smartphone is your camera, calendar, music player and more all in one.

And now, thanks to a few bits of cardboard, you can use it as a virtual reality headset too – allowing you to immerse yourself in pictures, videos and games.

We take a look at Google Cardboard, ask how it works and reveal our pick of the top VR apps to help you get the most out of it.

Google cardboard

What’s new from Google Cardboard?

Since its launch in 2014, Google Cardboard has been getting more and more popular – with a whole array of apps now available for you to use with it.

In fact, a dedicated VR page has just been unveiled on the Google Play store, offering some of the coolest and most cutting-edge apps around for use with mobile headsets like the Cardboard.

Visit the Google VR store


How does it work?

In a surprisingly simple piece of design, these headsets allow you to create your own virtual reality viewer with just a few bits of cardboard, a pair of 40mm focal lenses, a rubber band and some Velcro.

All you do is make the little box yourself from the pre-cut pieces of card in the kit, slot your smartphone in and hold it up to your eyes. It works with all phones with screen sizes measuring up to six inches.

Then load up compatible apps, and control them by moving your head, or with the clever little magnet switch on the side that allows you to navigate around your phone.

You even get a device known as an NFC chip, which detects when you place your phone into the headset and automatically loads up the Cardboard app.

The lenses create a 3D effect – which you can use to take immersive tours of iconic cities, experience thrilling roller-coaster rides and watch videos on a seemingly huge screen.


Are any other headsets available?

Cardboard started out as a Google side project, but more and more developers have jumped on the VR bandwagon and created their own versions of the design.

You can now get these headsets in all kinds of forms – from the simplest cardboard versions to more expensive models that have more in common with real VR viewers like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Some of these include:

  • Mattel’s View-Master – made from more durable plastic, which is great if you want a headset for the kids to play around with
  • Goggle Tech Go4D C1-Glass drops the outer case to create more stripped-back product that’s easier to carry around

The great thing about these VR toys is that they allow you get the virtual-reality experience without having to shell out big bucks for pricey headsets.

 Google cardboard

What can I do with it?

App makers were quick to get behind the VR smartphone phenomenon, and there are loads of great games and bits of software you can use with it. Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Watch videos filmed with special 360-degree cameras on YouTube. Videos appear on a seemingly massive screen and you can pick which ones you want to watch by tilting your head
  • Immerse yourself in your favourite holiday snaps. You can even take your own 360-degree panoramas with the Google Cardboard Camera app, which you can also use to record audio
  • Try the Rollercoaster app – perfect if you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker. It puts you in the front seat of some truly nail-biting rides and makes you feel as though you’re flying past buildings and doing loop-the-loops
  • Explore iconic places such as the Sydney Opera House and Paris without leaving your living room with Orbulus

Explore all that Google has to offer by checking out our range of smartphones

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