Google Cardboard is a low cost virtual reality (VR) platform developed by Google using simple low cost components to encourage interest and development in VR and VR applications.
The cardboard specification was designed by Google, the specs, assembly instructions have been made freely available on their website meaning you are able to download, print and customise your very own headset. Although this will require additional scissors, lenses, glue and an unspecified amount of patience (it's probably worthwhile buying a kit online for around £10*).
The kit we bought from BrizTechVR arrived quickly, flat packed and pre-assembled, only requiring 6 simple folding steps to complete. The Cardboard was set up easily within a few minutes and is a great bit of fun! The magnetic slide switch on the side can interface with a mobile phones inbuilt magnetometer allowing for basic control within apps.
Google provides two software development kits for creating Cardboard applications, both using OpenGL. One for android development using Java and another for the gaming engine Unity using C#. In May at the Google I/O 2015 conference they announced iOS support for Unity. There are also Google Chrome VR Experiments implemented using WebGL.
In addition to this at the I/O conference in May Google announced their Jump ecosystem for virtual reality film making.
GoPro partnered with Google to develop a circular 16 camera array which should support any camera. The footage captured can then be compiled from each of the cameras through "The Assembler" Jumps back-end software. Using computational photography and computer vision the assembler re-creates the scene which can be played through YouTube's stereoscopic VR mode and viewed on Google Cardboard!
All we need to do now is wait for Google to send the jump into space to capture video from on-board the ISS or Mars rover for a truly out-of-this-world experience!
*Requires additional smartphone with which to play Google Cardboard apps