30 Jul 2015 14:41 IST

Virtual Reality trailer for the masses

If you're thinking about buying a VR headset, try the Cardboard first

Virtual Reality is the future of entertainment. Anyone who’s already used a VR headset or even seen one being used has had a glimpse of this future.

Putting on one of these headsets for the first time transports the user to a world that invites a near-complete loss of inhibition, walking into walls, and for some people, occasional bouts of nausea.

However, that future is still being beta tested. The Occulus Rift, easily the most impressive virtual reality device of the lot, is slowly inching towards commercial availability. Competing devices from Samsung and HTC have already hit the market, but reception has been lukewarm. No one wants to pay full price for a VR headset considering all the VR content currently available could be stuffed into an average sized cardboard box. Which is exactly what Google is attempting to do with its Cardboard headset.

Open platform
Cardboard is a Google platform designed to drive VR adoption by putting a cheap, rudimentary headset in everybody’s hands. The specification is open source, so anyone- yes, even you - given enough spare time and parts- can build their own version of a Cardboard headset. A veritable flood of companies have jumped in to test the waters, offering customized versions of Google’s spec at varying price points.

Getting a Cardboard working is easy and it works with any Android or iOS device.

We got our hands on a OnePlus Cardboard, sold via a flash sale last week in anticipation of the OnePlus Two’s virtual reality launch event. The launch was a bit of a damp squib, involving OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei talking a lot in a dull monotone in an attempt to put everyone to sleep, rather than show off the exciting new handset in his pocket.

Thankfully, the OnePlus Cardboard is no one-trick pony. With a Moto E plugged in to the device, we dove into the Play Store to test the available fare, ranging from a Paul McCartney stageside concert experience to some classic Asteroids action.

Rough edges aplenty

The video quality is tolerable at best and there are a few literal rough edges to this device that ensures that it falls a long way short of the immersive experience that virtual reality at its best is supposed to be. However, sitting on McCartney’s piano as he belts out Live and Let Die is an experience that is just as sublime as watching a grainy 3GP video on a Nokia 6600 was a decade ago.

It helps to think of the Cardboard as a trailer. At ₹100, this was probably the cheapest a virtual reality headset will ever get. While the device itself is an unimpressive cardboard box with some velcro on the sides and top and a couple of lenses, the experience that it delivers is a tale that you will be compelled to relate to anyone who will listen. You’re in no danger of walking into any walls with a Cardboard, but it might be sufficient to lure you into the VR world.

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