Posted by Jim Martin 07 November 2014
How to make your own Oculus Rift for £2.50: with Google Cardboard virtual reality is only an Android phone away
Google Cardboard is a project which uses a couple of magnets, lenses and a piece of cardboard to turn your Android smartphone into a virtual reality headset like the Occulus Rift or Samsung Galaxy Gear VR. (Note that your phone will need to be running Android 4.1 or later in order for this to work.)
But here's the best part, you can buy a cardboard kit for less than a pint of beer.
Google's own kit is the best quality, as far as cardboard can be, but it will cost you £13 from Amazon. The good news is that there are plenty of knock-offs, some of which even come with an elastic head strap. I bought a basic kit from Deal Extreme, which cost just £2.50 delivered. That's basically free in my book.
After a couple of weeks, the kit duly arrived. There are no instructions, so for the benefit of anyone wanting to try this at home, here's how you put it together.
Check you've got everything. There should be three pieces of cardboard, two lenses, two magnets, two Velcro pads. All you need to add is an Android phone with up to a 6in screen. I'm using a Nexus 5.
Poke out all the cutouts in the cardboard, including the holes for the lenses and the tabs.
Insert the lenses in the circular holes in the middle section of cardboard and fold the front and back to keep them in place. It doesn't seem to matter which way round the lenses go. If they fall out, use tape or glue to hold them in.
Fold the main piece into shape starting with the section shown here. The small circle should be folded inwards, as this is where one of the magnets fits. You can stick this in place with glue, but it's not necessary.
Fold the cardboard around the piece with the lenses, remembering to insert it with the centre hole facing the front, as the small divider piece slots into this. The divider helps to ensure each eye sees only the left or right image on screen.
Peel off one side of each Velcro pad and stick them on top as in the photo. Then, peel off the top backing and fold the flap up so it sticks to them. This will hold your phone in place.
Download the free Cardboard app from the Play Store and launch it.
Pop your phone into your cardboard construction with the top on the left-hand side and secure it with the Velcro pads.
Turn your head left and right to choose a demo within the Cardboard app, and pull down and release the outer magnet to make a selection. To exit, simply turn the device to portrait mode.
Demos include the brilliant Windy Day 'game' which kids (and adults alike) will love - Moto X owners will recognise this as it comes pre-installed. It's better with Google Cardboard of course.
You can also take a virtual tour of the Palace of Versailles, and see what Google Street View is like in virtual 3D (only on the limited route Paris, unfortunately). The other gem here is the YouTube app, which gives you a giant cinema-like screen and the ability to search for videos using the microphone - select it by looking at it and pulling down and releasing the magnet.
Cardboard isn't the only app you can use, as there are a few others to try in the Play Store including Tuscany Drive where you can actually move around, VR Cinema for Cardboard (this plays any MP4 video in a split-screen view), Orbulus for Cardboard VR and Dive City Rollercoaster.
Plus, you can fire up the Chrome web browser and go to g.co/chromevr to see some of Google's in-browser VR experiments which work with Cardboard.
Not all apps work on all phones, but if you have a Nexus 4, 5 or Galaxy S4 or S5 you should be fine. We also tested the main Cardboard app with an LG G3 and that worked, too.