Peeking into the Future

A Glimpse at VR’s Potential through Google Cardboard

Google_Cardboard_lAs a tech enthusiast, I’ve seen many products emerge and then fizzle away. Underwhelming uptake of 3D TV appeared to suggest that consumers don’t want to place something on their face to view content, so I’d been skeptical about the rise of virtual reality (VR). The technology is intriguing, but price and a lack of mainstream consumer models on the market have stopped me from jumping in.

Cue Google Cardboard: a piece of cardboard that folds into a viewfinder with embedded lenses to offer a low-budget VR experience when a smartphone is placed inside. It’s a way for modern VR to reach the masses, utilizing the high-resolution screens and relatively powerful silicon that’s commonplace in most handsets. Such viewers remove the financial barriers to VR, and I purchased an I Am Cardboard unit on Amazon for $14.99. The technology had my curiosity, but now it had my attention.

I set it up the viewer, placed my iPhone 6s inside and began with a test drive of the Porsche VR app. I’m a car guy, and loved the virtual experience of being in the passenger seat as a professional driver drove around the course. It reminded me that some professional drivers play racing simulator games like Gran Turismo to become more familiar with the tracks they’ll compete on, and I suspect that VR will be the next extension to make practice on the virtual track closer to the real thing.

The apps cover more affordable and accessible sports, too, with the likes of Discovery VR’s great video to teach users about surfing. The technology can’t completely replicate the real-world experience, but such apps can help to prepare novice surfers like myself to make better use of what little time we have at the beach. Interactivity is a valuable teaching method, and I think that VR could be a good educational tool to follow the success of laptops and iPads. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine classrooms of students learning through VR.

I had suspected that modern VR was a gimmick — much like motion-control gaming or 3D TVs. But I’m much more excited about the technology since trialing just the tip of the iceberg with Google Cardboard. I’m now eager to experience modern VR through a dedicated unit with the processing power of a modern PC or games console. This technology could influence several industries, and I can’t wait to see what can be done with VR once it reaches more hands.

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