By now you’ve probably heard about virtual reality. (Heck, the technology has even found its way into a Hot Pockets commercial!) But while some of the more famous virtual-reality devices include the Oculus Rift ($350 for version two of the development kit) and the Gear VR ($200), you’ll find an intriguing device at the other end of the price spectrum.
Enter Google Cardboard. Originally introduced at the company’s developer-focused I/O conference in 2014, this device is made of (you’ve guessed it) cardboard, and is essentially a mount for a smartphone.
Cardboard’s been billed as a DIY virtual-reality headset, and its creators at Google have said they hope to encourage VR development and drum up interest in virtual reality by making Google Cardboard so accessible.
By accessible, I mean cheap. Compared to other products in the VR category, the Google Cardboard is a steal. Through Google’s website, you’ll find Cardboard headsets starting at $19.95, with the most expensive option, with a fancy aluminum finish and wood accents plus NFC, going for $85.
Though the idea for Cardboard came from Google itself, the company established a set of specifications so that many third-party manufacturers could offer their own hardware. The standard specifies the parts needed for assembly, including cardboard, 45mm focal length lenses, magnets a rubber band and more. A near field communication (NFC) tag is optional; when it’s included on a Cardboard device, the phone will read the tag and launch a specified Cardboard-compatible app.