This update is going to be less about the possible philosophical underpinnings of VR and more about the practical thoughts regarding the specific technology that is emerging.
Before the Oculus Rift DK2 comes in the mail, I thought I’d experiment with the ‘easier’ form of VR currently available to experiment with. That is the Google Cardboard(as seen on the Nexus 5):
Compared to the Oculus Rift, this may not look like much. But this is all you really need to start experiencing VR/3D experiences that you’ve never experienced before. The basic idea of this whole thing is rather simple. The screen displays two seperate images that have a slgithly different perspective.
The Biconvex lenses trick your mind into seeing actual depth and 3D space on a 2D panel. This trick can be accomplished with even low resoultion enviroments or imagery. Though the higher the resoultion, the greater the heights of immersion are felt.
Putting it Together
Currently, I have two Google Cardboard style VR headsets:
One is made by Dodocase and the other is made by ‘I AM CARDBOARD®’ (I wasn’t able to find a source page for them outside of Amazon). I’m using an LG made Google Nexus 5 to be the screen and render workhorse for this rig. So not a whole not of difference between these two headsets. I just got impatient and ordered another.
Both were fairly easy to put together but both had me with a reletive panic of not thinking I could figure it out. The ‘I AM CARDBOARD’ version was a snap and didn’t involve much thought. Just taped one part of the box closed.. that was about all of the steps. The Dodocase involved following some pretty simple steps that even most children could figure out.
Google Cardboard App
Google Cardboard refers to both the headset itself and the app available on the Google Play Store. This app has a series of demos that show the possible ideas that could be implemented in more fleshed out ways by other devolopers. What is here is impressive as it is. Here is a short video of me going through the ‘Tour Guide’ mode. In this mode, I am taken on a virtual tour of Château de Versailles, showing you the basics of the idea:
Google Cardboard Tour Guide from Chaz Carlson on Vimeo.
Now keep in mind that I used my head to look around and there is almost no latency noticed between my actual head movement/movement inside the virual interface or enviroment. Also remember that the Cardboard headset effectively makes the 360 panoramas seen in the video 3D and like you could reach out to touch them. This could be a very effective way to immerse someone to help them learn something quickly.
Another demo in Cardboard is the Youtube app — basically it reimagines the interface for selecting video as being a 360 spatial one where you use your direction of view as your cursor and the magnegtic button on the Cardboard as the ‘clicker’.
Google Cardboard Demo from Chaz Carlson on Vimeo.
As you saw in the video, the app isn’t perfect by any means. The voice search was a recent addition however. But this just as a demo shows how we can totally change our conceptions of how we access and organize our digital information. Maximizing the amount of connection to the media and under lying thoughts/meanings is essential. When you have Cardboard on, this small little 5 inch screen becomes a 60 inch screen to you.. it’s all you can see.. it’s all there is. With headphones, you can get quite immersed.
This last video is round up of the other demos in the app that were decent in their own right. Including a cartoon, Google Earth, 360 Google Street View in Paris, and being able to look at 360 panos taken by the phone’s camera:
Google Cardboard Footage from Chaz Carlson on Vimeo.
Other Content for Cardboard/Other HMDs
Even if the Cardboard app was the only source of demo content for this VR/3D thing, it would be good enough, but there is even more! The most accessible and relatable demo is the one that is the most popular on the Oculus Rift DK1: Tuscany:
Tuscany Demo on Nexus 5 Google Cardboard from Chaz Carlson on Vimeo.
I hope this blog post serves as a good introduction to VR and 3D on mobile. Next blog post will go to the next level as I will be using a PS3 controller to play some of the Horror Games available for Android and are caompatiable with Cardboard. Another month or so until I get Oculus Rift… that’s when things get kicked up to the next level. More content in the future will involve other people’s opinions and explorations of the VR world. Until then… back into the VR…