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Home Techonomics
Illustration by Neil Webb

Home Techonomics

with lynda.com Staff Authors

Video: Getting the most out of Google Cardboard

Hi. I'm Nick Brazzi. Welcome to another episode of Home Techinomics. This is a Google Cardboard headset. It's a virtual reality headset made mostly of cardboard. What you do is, you put an Android phone into it. Most current generation five inch Android phones will work. Then you've got a headset that shows you an immersive 3D environment that tracks the movement of your head, so you can look around in any direction. The resolution and general quality are much lower than something like the Oculus Rift, so it isn't completely immersive, but aside from that, it does work pretty well.

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Home Techonomics
1h 13m Appropriate for all Jul 25, 2014 Updated Oct 17, 2014

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Forget home economics; it's all about home techonomics. This course is for anyone who wants to make their life more productive and fun. Discover the latest and greatest in home technology by seeing how it works up close, including pros and cons and recommendations for how you use it. Every week, lynda.com authors will explore a different gadget that they've brought into their homes to make life easier or more enjoyable. Learn about wearable fitness monitors such as FitBit, music solutions such as Sonos, tips to ditching cable TV, the best ways to use Wi-Fi extenders and repeaters, and much more. Come back every Friday for a new home-tech tip, and let us know in the course feedback which devices or technologies you would like to see us explore!

Subjects:
Business Productivity Home + Small Office
Author:
lynda.com Staff Authors

Getting the most out of Google Cardboard

Hi. I'm Nick Brazzi. Welcome to another episode of Home Techinomics. This is a Google Cardboard headset. It's a virtual reality headset made mostly of cardboard. What you do is, you put an Android phone into it. Most current generation five inch Android phones will work. Then you've got a headset that shows you an immersive 3D environment that tracks the movement of your head, so you can look around in any direction. The resolution and general quality are much lower than something like the Oculus Rift, so it isn't completely immersive, but aside from that, it does work pretty well.

Now, I say it's made mostly from cardboard because there are a few other parts. There's some magnets, a pair of lenses, some velcro tape, and more. All very low cost parts. If you go to the Google Cardboard website, you can see instructions for making your own. If you're not feeling crafty, you can find complete kits that you can purchase online. Just search for Google Cardboard on Amazon or eBay. If you do decide to make your own headset, the instructions on the website are pretty clear, so I'm not going to go into showing you how to assemble the kit here in this movie.

But there are a few details that I wanted to share. First, it's important that you pay attention to the recommendations on the type of cardboard that you use. I tried using a cardboard box, which goes against Google's recommendation, and I found that it really didn't work. The cardboard was way too thick. You really do need a thin, strong type of cardboard, like this. I also found that using matte board, which I picked up from an art framing store, worked pretty well when I made this Google Cardboard headset.

It's pretty similar to the cardboard that they recommend. Another thing to consider. If you don't want to bother with the NFC sticker that Google recommends, it's no big deal to skip it. All the NFC sticker does is automatically launch the Google Cardboard app for you. This can actually be a nuisance if you decide to try some of the third party apps that I'm going to talk about later in this movie. Also, I recommend you pick up a roll of double-sided tape to help hold your kit together, and a can of compressed air to clean the dust and loose bits of cardboard off of the lenses.

Once you have your headset, let's talk about what you can do with it. The experience can be pretty immersive, but it really depends on the software. The software, of course, runs on your phone. We'll talk more about the software options in a minute, but to answer one question up front, the official Cardboard app only runs on Android, but there are some other software options that run on iPhone, and we'll talk about those. The Google Cardboard app is a free app for Android phones. It's the official software for the Cardboard headset.

Now, I wish I could show you how it looks, but there's really not way to capture that on video. In this app, there are several activities that you can experience, but they all seem like tech demos that show you what the kit is capable of. There's a demo where you can fly through 3D maps from a handful of locations. There's also an experience called Windy Day, which I can best describe as a 360 degree cartoon that you're standing inside of. You're in a forest, and you can look around in any direction while this cute little cartoon mouse struggles with a big, red hat.

This is the most immersive experience that I've seen on Google Cardboard, but the most useful is the YouTube module. This simulates the experience of watching videos on a giant screen, like in a movie theater, and it actually works pretty well. You can look all around the environment to browse through different videos, and if you look below the giant screen, there's a voice search button. Click on that, and you can search Youtube for more videos to browse through. So that's the official app, but there are other apps that you can try with Google Cardboard, even if Google doesn't support them, and some of them even run on iPhone.

There's this other product that's very similar to Google Cardboard called Durovis Dive. It's a manufactured product, not something that you build yourself. There are several 3D virtual reality games in the app stores for both iPhone and Android that are made to work for the Durovis Dive headset. Just do a search in the iTunes app store or the Google Play store for Durovis, and you'll find a bunch of these. Most, if not all of these, are free, so they're worth checking out.

I didn't find any that I absolutely loved, but they are fun to play with in the Google Cardboard headset. Dive City Rollercoaster is pretty good. It puts you in a rollercoaster, and you can look around in any direction during the ride. It feels more like a tech demo than a fully formed experience, but it's a lot of fun for a little while. What gets really cool is when you crack into the world of 360 degree video recordings. A 360 degree camera system is usually a cluster of several GoPro cameras in a roughly spherical orientation.

These can be used to shoot live action video of a full 360 degree environment. There's special software made by companies like Color and Video Stitch that assembles the footage from all of these cameras into a single 360 degree experience. When you play these videos on a virtual reality headset, you can look all around in the environment while the video plays back. This can be really fun. Color makes an app called Color Eyes for the iPhone that will play these videos, and it works great in the Cardboard headset.

This app is still in beta for Android at the time of this recording, so it may be available for Android soon. In this app, all you need to do is browse the library, and choose a video that looks interesting. Once you've chosen the video you want, make sure you choose the stereoscopic playback option. Then, you can place your phone into the Cardboard headset and enjoy the experience of looking around while the video plays. It's really pretty cool. Another fun thing about the Cardboard headset is that it can be used as a 3D movie or picture viewer.

For example, there are lots of videos on YouTube that can be played in 3D on various types of diplays. Apps like 3D tube on iPhone, or VRTube on Android, let you search 3D videos on Youtube and play them back so you can view them in the Cardboard headset. The interface on some of these apps can be hard to navigate, and some of the YouTube search results are better than others, but when I search for documentaries, I found a few pretty cool 3D documentaries that I could watch on the Cardboard headset.

There are some apps you can use to actually shoot 3D photos using the camera on your phone. For Android, check out an app called 3D steroid. On iPhone, look for an app called 3D camera. There are lots of apps with similar names, so look for the one made by Juicy Bits Software. You can use either of these apps to shoot separate images for the left and right eyes. Once you shoot this stereo pair, these apps will let you output a side by side 3D image that you can view in the Cardboard headset.

And finally, if you happen to have a 3D camera, like this Fuji 3D W3, you can use an application on your computer, like SteroSplicer, to convert the 3D photos into a side by side layout, which can then be viewed in the Cardboard headset. Until we see some explosion in 360 degree video apps, or virtual reality apps, this is really just going to become a picture viewer for my 3D photos. If this were a really expensive product, I probably wouldn't bother, but I found it to be a pretty fun project to build a kit, and for the price, it's really not bad.

So that does it for this episode of Home Techinomics. I'm Nick Brazzi, and I'll see you next time for a look at another way home technology is making our lives easier, and a lot more fun.

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