'What is Google Cardboard?': Everything you need to know about Google's low-tech VR experience

GettyGoogle Cardboard is a low-tech and inexpensive VR experience.

  • Google Cardboard is an affordable virtual reality viewer created by Google.
  • The viewer is very basic in appearance, and the cheap material makes for a solid, but inexpensive option for those looking to dip a toe into the virtual reality experience without spending a lot of money.
  • There are many apps in the Google Play Store (as well as the iOS and Android app stores) which have been designed to work in tandem with the Google Cardboard viewer.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Google Cardboard is the company’s affordable answer to a virtual reality (VR) experience: It’s a no-frills viewer which users can insert their phones into. It fits screens up to six inches, and the company says it works with most eyeglasses, too.

And yes, Google Cardboard is, in fact, made of cardboard.

Google Cardboard Justin Gmoser/Business InsiderGoogle Cardboard is a simple device made out of cardboard, a rubber band, magnets, and some lenses.

There are also a slew of Cardboard-friendly apps which have been specifically designed to work with the viewer. And, according to Google, “most Cardboard apps work with Android 4.1+ and the latest iOS smartphones.”

Here’s more about how it works and how much it costs:

How Google Cardboard works

In order for virtual reality to work, you have to immerse yourself in another world. And that means blocking out pretty much everything else. (Hence the many videos of people forgetting their surroundings as they try to battle some fictitious enemy, oftentimes breaking or jumping into things in the process.)

Google Cardboard is a VR construct that allows users to block out external visual stimuli and focus on their device’s screen. Once you have it, you fold it into shape, pop your mobile device into it, cue up the VR-friendly app of your choice and hold it up to your head to start your VR experience.

Cardboard’s two plastic acrylic lenses make the experience more believable by mimicking the way our eyes process the real world (as well as the way VR screens themselves are set up), while the side flaps block distractions ensure that the eyes stay trained on whatever appears within those areas.

Google CardboardKaryne Levy/Business InsiderGoogle Cardboard blocks out your peripheral vision for a more immersive experience.

The only downside (other than the notable lack of a head-strap) is that Google Cardboard doesn’t do anything to block out external noise, which can work against the experience.

But it’s probably best not to get too deep into the experience anyway, especially if you have breakable objects around you. And keep in mind that you should take frequent breaks while using any VR-viewer device to avoid headaches and eye strain.

How to get and use Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard retails for $US15 from the company (or $US25 for two viewers). Alternatively, you can build one yourself (out of a pizza box, for example); Google even provides directions for doing just that. You’d just need to pick up a few other things, like lenses, magnets, and a rubber band, and set aside time to put it all together.

Google CardboardKaryne Levy/Business InsiderPutting a Google Cardboard device together only takes a few steps.

Or, if you’re looking for something with more visual appeal (or made out of sturdier material, or with a way to secure it to your head), there are other options you can purchase to work in tandem with Google Cardboard apps, some of which can also accommodate larger screens. Those range from about $US5 to $US100.

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