Low Tech High Tech

Google Cardboard should be terrible. Really, it should. It's literally made of cardboard. I remember as a kid some cereal boxes came with spy glasses you had to cut out of the box itself—and they were terrible. But Google Cardboard is amazing. Granted, you need to add your $750 Android phone to it, but that's already in your pocket anyway.

The reason Google Cardboard can be so simple is that its only job is to let you focus on a phone that is two inches from your face. A couple plastic lenses held in place by a chunk of cardboard isn't terribly high tech. But once you have that technology in place, Google Cardboard lets you literally transport to another world. Using apps from the Google Play Store, the VR experience is shockingly good using nothing more than a modern Android cell phone.

The truth is, it takes a lot of graphical power to render two separate dynamic videos on a screen at one time. (That's how it makes the experience 3D.) So whatever VR app you download will likely have a slightly blocky-looking world. The crazy part is, that doesn't detract from the experience. In fact, some blocky trees almost make the experience thatmuch more surreal because it's obvious you're in a simulation. Yet, when you turn your head, it changes like you're actually there!

If you want to experience some pretty cool virtual reality, but don't want to invest in one of the expensive, Windows-centric systems like the HTC Vive, give Google Cardboard a try. You can get the actual cardboard goggles on Amazon, or you could spend a few more dollars to get a plastic set that is a little more sturdy. Either way, the experience is amazing!

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Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.