Google Cardboard: Everything you need to know about the FREE Google VR Headset

Virtual reality is the new wave of media that is already too large to ignore. With the price of VR headsets rapidly decreasing over time, it’s only a matter of time before the average household owns and is familiar with VR.

Until that point, the absolute best bang for your buck in terms of VR capabilities is Google Cardboard. Instead of shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a headset and games that may just give you a headache, Google Cardboard allows you to dip your feet into the water of VR before making bolder purchases.

What is Google Cardboard? 

assembled google cardboard vr

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Google Cardboard is a makeshift VR headset made entirely of cardboard. All you have to do is open any video that is meant for VR on your phone, and pop it into your headset.

While this description may make Google cardboard seem lackluster, we urge you to try it for yourself. Regardless of quality, it’s undeniable that the most affordable way to experience VR is Google Cardboard. The cheapest set is a mere $15 and comes with everything you need to get started.

Google Cardboard is a simple product with only a few materials to get you started.

  1. A headset that is made completely of cardboard and can house your phone inside.
  2. It comes with a strap and Velcro that is adjustable to your head so that you can comfortably keep the headset snug on your face.
  3. Where your eyes rest are two biconvex lenses that will allow you to be fully immersed in the VR video playing within the Google Cardboard

With such simple materials, it is actually possible to create your own Google Cardboard if you can find all of these materials online. There are several online sources that can teach you to do this, but from personal experience buying it straight from Google saves you a lot of time and hassle.

How to Use Google Cardboard

google cardboard fully unfolded

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

For those who have never used VR before, it can be difficult to visualize just how transformative and magical VR can be.

Once you have your Google Cardboard, you can start browsing interesting videos, games, and applications that pique your interest.

For example, on the Google Play and iOS App Store, a simple search for the term “VR” will yield hundreds of thousands of results.

You can browse to your heart’s content until you find VR media that you want to try.

Once you do, you can begin your Google Cardboard VR experience.

  1. Pop your phone into the Google Cardboard headset with the VR App already set-up and playing.
  2. Close the Google Cardboard headset and position the phone so that each eye can only see one of the respective screens.
  3. Once the phone is in the correct position, tighten the straps on the Google Cardboard headset so that it fits snug in your head and you see nothing in your peripheral vision.
  4. Slowly tilt and move your head around to make sure the VR capabilities are working correctly and responding to your movement.
  5. Press play/start on the video by focusing on the circle in the middle.
  6. Enjoy the VR experience!

How It Works

google cardboard

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Google made VR accessible to all with Google Cardboard. With the cardboard headset, you have everything you need to experience high-quality VR.

How Google Cardboard works is purely through the gyroscope sensors. If you want to exit an application or trigger some action, you will likely need to do this by tilting your head in some direction or holding a steady gaze at an object.

Other VR Headsets come with VR controllers that allow you to do more complex tasks. This includes grabbing things, holding things, and doing complex movements with your arms/hands. While Google Cardboard does not accommodate for these actions, you simply cannot beat the price point of $15.

In fact, Google Cardboard serves mainly as a stepping stone for those who want to experience proper VR in the comfort of their home. Yes, there are a minority of people who end up using Google Cardboard for several years to come, but that isn’t the purpose of the product.

The cardboard will bend and degrade over time, but your love for VR and passion for being transported to other worlds will not. Order a Google Cardboard and see for yourself whether you want to stick with 2D media or fall in love with VR media. Within the first few weeks, you will be able to know if you want to upgrade the headset to a more robust version offered by VR companies like Oculus or HTC.

What Apps to Try

Now that we’ve gotten the technical and instructional aspects out of the way, it’s time to delve into the fun parts. What apps and experiences are you going to jump into when your Google Cardboard arrives.

After trying out tons of different apps on the app store, we’ve narrowed the field down to 4 must-download Google Cardboard apps.

  1. Expeditions VR: With Covid making travel almost completely impossible, it’s understandable to feel antsy and stuck at home. That’s why we’ve put expeditions VR as our top choice for VR Apps to try on Google cardboard. You can take expeditions to over 200 locations and Google Cardboard will give a virtual tour guide to help you soak in the beauty and culture of that city. This app is available on both the Google App Store and iOS and is great for all age ranges. The best part? The app is absolutely free.
  2. InMind VR: With InMind VR, you are given the unique task of finding Neurons that cause mental disorders and eliminating them by shooting them. With an interesting premise and fast-paced gameplay, we recommend this game for anyone who enjoys other shooting games in their free time. On another note, this game has a version available without VR so you can download it and get a feel for the game before even purchasing a Google Cardboard headset.
  3. Relax VR: For those who aren’t a fan of games and instead are more interested in the transformative and immersive aspects of VR, Relax VR is perfect for you. In this app, you get 360 visual and spatial audio and incredible views as you meditate and focus on your breathing. The app also comes with guided meditation exercises as well as hand-picked locations around the world that the creators believe will help you get into a relaxed state deeper and sooner.
  4. VR Rollercoasters: Relax VR and Expeditions VR are both apps that aren’t games but have a calming effect on the viewer. VR Rollercoasters is an app that isn’t a game but will have you literally on the edge of your seat. If you miss rollercoasters and theme parks due to Covid closing them all down, just download VR Rollercoasters and get ready to enjoy the thrill from the comfort of your own home.
  5. VR is not just for kids. Adult content is available! If you are over 18 years old you can enjoy some quality adult entertainment for free on Google Cardboard. There are even adult games available. Some providers will even send you a Cardboard headset for FREE!

Conclusion

The best part about Google Cardboard is that there is such incredible up-side and very little down-side.

Paying hundreds of dollars for a VR headset that may end up collecting dust on your shelf is the last thing you want to do. For the price of a single dinner, you can try out VR and get a better understanding of what all the rave is about with Virtual Reality!

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