When I first heard about Google Cardboard I thought someone was pulling my leg. No way - someone must be trying to bait me into googling the word ‘cardboard’ which will undoubtedly return a slew of mind-numbingly boring results discussing the perks of thick brown paper.
Well… turns out I was only half wrong. Thick brown paper it is, but never have I been more excited by the prospect of running around with cardboard goggles in an otherwise populated and public area.
Step aside Oculus Rift, here comes Google Cardboard!
Google Cardboard is Google’s answer to the boom of Virtual Reality technology which exploded onto the gaming scene in 2012 with Oculus Rift: Palmer Luckey’s hugely successful virtual reality headset campaign on Kickstarter.
Now by hugely successful, I mean it added an extra zero to it’s $250,000 dollar Kickstarter crowd funding goal, raising nearly two and a half million to date. Well... $2,437,429 at the time of writing.
Sony has also gone ahead and announced (and then delayed) its own VR headset for the Playstation 4.
The Oculus also piqued the interests of John Carmack in its early development stages. If you are a gamer (or just anyone!) and you don’t know who this is, you need to. Allow me to inundate you with his awesomeness: Carmack co-founded Id Software, brought us Quake, Doom, Commander Keen and the controversial Wolfenstein (to name a few).
According to EuroGamer he even quit ZeniMax Studios (parent company to Id software) after they refused to support the Oculus Rift headset for the games he was working on there.
Now that is a man dedicated to the game. Oh… crap. I just lost. (Kudos and apologies if you got that one). Moving on!
If that wasn’t a measure of supreme success already, Oculus Rift has now been acquired by - you (never would have?) guessed it - Facebook. Zuckerberg reportedly forked out 2 billion for the Oculus VR company and went public with the acquisition in March this year.
But wait… what does Facebook want with a fully immersive, 3D virtual reality gaming headset?
Facebook: Stepping into Gaming?
Facebook has become a foundation for ‘social’ (sometimes mistakenly confused with ‘casual’) games such as Candy Crush, FarmVille and the like - ‘games’ which will bore the pants of just about any gamer with even the remotest interest in strategy, development, immersion, characters, challenges... well, basically any of the things which make a game a game.
Social games are kind of like snakes and ladders - they tend to have very little actual strategy and barely any skill is required. Sure, they can be fun (per se), but the essence of the game is that sometimes you roll a snake and sometimes you a roll a ladder and whoever wins just happened to roll more ladders than you did.
As a developer and gamer extremely excited for Oculus, I was pretty alarmed to hear Facebook had got her sneaky thumbs into this pie. And Zuckerberg even admitted that his plans for Oculus are much bigger than just games, writing “This is just the start. After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences”.
Despite Oculus having a heavy involvement in the developer community (the current source development kit is fully integrated into the publically available Unity and Unreal game engines) this acquisition could change all that. We just don’t know.
And that’s where Google Cardboard comes in.
Google Cardboard: Open Source Power!
Yes, it’s true that Google is also a multi-billion dollar company with a ridiculous amount of power in the world - but Google has a proven track record when it comes to its dedication to open source development.
Whether it’s Android, Chromium (which brought us Chrome) or the Go programming language, Google continually strives to maintain highly accessible, open source platforms for programmers, and that is exactly what they’ve done with Google Cardboard.
You can purchase one outright for as little as $25 or even build your own and we are seeing an ever increasing amount of apps and tools appearing for the cheapest virtual reality headset money can buy.
This also means that Indie Developers won’t have to pay exorbitant licensing fees to release their products on Google Cardboard because, since the whole experience is powered (at the moment) by your Android smartphone, we can safely assume apps built for Google Cardboard will just have to go through the same publishing process as all the other apps on the Google Play Store.
So there it is: a tiny box of cardboard, a rubber band, a few funky lenses and a smartphone which will transport you to another world and only set you back a case of beer.
So what do you think? Will Google Carboard be a success? Write in with your thoughts below the line!