Google Figured Out How To Turn Any Phone Into A Virtual Reality Headset For Next To Nothing

At the end of Google I/O, Google’s annual developers conference on Wednesday, Android boss Sundar Pichai announced that audience members would be getting some swag.

Among the takeaways: A piece of cardboard.

Sure enough, when we left the auditorium, Google employees handed out pieces of cardboard.

At first it looked like nothing much. But after putting it together, we soon learned that with just some cardboard, a magnet, a rubber band, some magnifying glasses, and the Cardboard App, you, too, can fly around a virtual space, just like you can with the Occulus Rift VR glasses.

You can find detailed instructions on how to use it — and even make one for yourself — on Google’s site.

Google Cardboard looks like what you think it looks like: a piece of cardboard.

But once you open it up ...

... you see what's hidden inside.

Google was nice enough to provide directions on how to fold the thing. It folds up pretty easily.

This is what it looks like once it's folded up. You put your phone where there's a picture of a phone.

The rubber band keeps your phone in place.

At first we thought the thing was kind of silly. But paired with the Cardboard App, it's actually a pretty good representation of what virtual reality looks like.

You need an Android phone running at least Android 4.2. That little magnet on the side actually moves up and down. It activates NFC and opens the app automatically.

Once the app opens, you're placed in the middle of Google Earth and can move your head around and walk around, just like with other VR glasses.

Senior Editor Steve Kovach took Google Cardboard for a spin.

His reaction was pretty priceless.

Google says Cardboard was built as part of the company's 20% project. That's where employees work on side projects along with their normal tasks. For example, Gmail was initially a 20% project before it became an actual product.

Flying around Google Earth is only one of the things you can do. Google offers a developer kit for people to create their own VR applications.

Here's another company that's building some VR glasses ...

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