Google Cardboard

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Google Cardboard
Google Cardboard logo.png
Assembled Google Cardboard VR mount.jpg
Google Cardboard fully assembled
Developer Google
Type DIY virtual reality headset
Release date 2014 (2014)
Operating system Android, iOS

Google Cardboard is a virtual reality (VR) platform developed by Google for use with a fold-out cardboard mount for a mobile phone. It is intended as a low-cost system to encourage interest and development in VR and VR applications.[1][2] It was created by David Coz and Damien Henry, Google engineers at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris, in their 20% "Innovation Time Off",[3] and was introduced at the Google I/O 2014 developers conference for Android devices.

Assembly and operation[edit]

A partial look at an unfolded Cardboard viewer

Google Cardboard headsets are built out of simple, low-cost components. The headset specifications were designed by Google, but there is no official manufacturer or vendor for the device. Instead, Google made the list of parts, schematics, and assembly instructions freely available on their website, allowing people to assemble Cardboard themselves from readily available parts. These parts are a piece of cardboard cut into a precise shape, 45 mm focal length lenses, magnets or capacitive tape, a hook and loop fastener (such as Velcro), a rubber band, and an optional near field communication (NFC) tag. Google provides extra recommendations for large scale manufacturing, and pre-assembled kits based on these plans are available for less than $5[4] from multiple vendors, who have also created a number of Cardboard variations.

Once the kit is assembled, a smartphone is inserted in the back of the device and held in place by the selected fastening device. A Google Cardboard–compatible app splits the smartphone display image into two, one for each eye, while also applying barrel distortion to each image to counter pincushion distortion from the lenses.[5] The result is a stereoscopic ("3D") image with a wide field of view.

The first version of Cardboard could fit phones with screens up to 5.7 inches (140 mm) and used magnets as input buttons, which required a compass sensor in the phone. An updated design released at Google I/O 2015 works with phones up to 6 inches (150 mm) and replaces the magnet switch with a conductive lever that triggers a touch event on the phone's screen for better compatibility across devices. A port of the Google Cardboard demonstration app to Apple's iOS mobile operating system was released at the same conference.[6]


Google provides two software development kits for developing Cardboard applications, both using OpenGL: one for Android using Java, and one for the game engine Unity using C#.[7] After initially only supporting Android, Google announced iOS support for the Unity plugin in May 2015 at the Google I/O 2015 conference.[8] Third-party apps with Cardboard support are available on the Google Play store[9] and App Store for iOS. In addition to native Cardboard apps, there are Google Chrome VR Experiments implemented using WebGL; phones, including Apple's, that support WebGL can run Google's web experiments.[10][11]

Related initiatives[edit]


Jump is an ecosystem for virtual reality filmmaking developed by Google. It was announced at Google I/O on May 28, 2015. Much as Google did with the Cardboard viewer, for Jump the company developed specifications for a circular camera array made from 16 cameras that it will release to the public.[12] GoPro partnered with Google to build an array using their own cameras,[13] although the Jump rig will theoretically support any camera.[12] Once footage has been shot, the VR video is compiled from the individual cameras through "the assembler", Jump's back-end software. The assembler uses computational photography and "computer vision" to recreate the scene while generating thousands of in-between viewpoints.[12] Finalized video shot through Jump can then be viewed through a stereoscopic VR mode of YouTube with a Cardboard viewer.[12]


Expeditions is a program for providing VR experiences to school classrooms through Google Cardboard viewers, allowing educators to take their students on virtual field trips.[14] It was announced at Google I/O 2015, with plans to launch in fall 2015.[15] Each classroom kit would include 30 synchronized Cardboard viewers and smartphones, along with a tablet for the teacher to act as tour guide.[16] Teachers interested in bringing the program to their school can register online.[17]

CNET called Cardboard "the first VR platform targeted at children."[18]

Third-party offerings[edit]

In November 2014, Volvo released Volvo-branded Cardboard goggles and an Android app, Volvo Reality, to let the user explore the XC90.[19] In February 2015, toy manufacturer Mattel, in cooperation with Google, announced a VR version of the stereoscopic viewer View-Master. Android support was available at the viewer's release in fall 2015, with support for iOS and Windows smartphones available later.[20]

Google also collaborated with LG Electronics to release a Cardboard-based headset for the LG G3 known as VR for G3. Released in February 2015, it was distributed as a free accessory with new G3 models sold in certain countries, and was perceived to be a competitor to the Samsung Gear VR accessory.[21]

On November 8, 2015, The New York Times included a Google Cardboard viewer with all home newspaper deliveries. Readers can download the NYT VR app, which displays journalism-focused immersive VR environments.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pierce, David (May 28, 2015). "Google Cardboard is VR's Gateway Drug". Wired. Retrieved June 17, 2015. 
  2. ^ Branstetter, Ben (June 28, 2015). "Cardboard is everything Google Glass never was". Retrieved 2015-06-28. 
  3. ^ Statt, Nick (June 25, 2014). "Facebook has Oculus, Google has Cardboard". CNET. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  4. ^ Dougherty, Conor (May 28, 2015). "Google Intensifies Focus on its Cardboard Virtual Reality Device". New York Times. Retrieved June 17, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Unity Reference: Google Cardboard". Retrieved June 3, 2015. ...specifies whether you want the values as seen through the Cardboard lenses (Distorted) or as if no lenses were present (Undistorted). ... When VR Mode is enabled, stereo cameras render side-by-side to this target automatically. Each frame, the result is corrected for distortion and then displayed. ... Implements the same barrel distortion that is performed by the native code. 
  6. ^ Lee, Nicole (May 28, 2015). "Google Cardboard VR for iPhone hands-on". Engadget. Retrieved June 2, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Google Cardboard – Google". Google. Retrieved June 2, 2015. 
  8. ^ Tarantola, Andrew (May 28, 2015). "Google Cardboard now works on iOS". Engadget. Retrieved June 2, 2015. 
  9. ^ Broida, Rick (July 17, 2014). "Five more apps that work with Google Cardboard: Games, flight sims, movie players, and more, all great fits for your Google VR headset.". CNET. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Virtual Reality". Chrome Experiments. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  11. ^ Johnson, Dave (August 18, 2014). "Google Cardboard works on the iPhone, too". CBS News. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c d O'Kane, Sean (May 28, 2015). "Google Jump is an entire ecosystem for virtual reality filmmaking". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved June 9, 2015. 
  13. ^ Duino, Justin (May 29, 2015). "We took a look at the GoPro Google Jump camera array". Android Central. Mobile Nations. Retrieved June 9, 2015. 
  14. ^ Etherington, Darrell (May 28, 2015). "Google Launches ‘Expeditions,’ An App For Shared Virtual School Field Trips". TechCrunch. AOL. Retrieved June 12, 2015. 
  15. ^ Novet, Jordan (May 28, 2015). "Google announces Cardboard Expeditions to let teachers take classes on field trips". VentureBeat. Retrieved June 12, 2015. 
  16. ^ Lee, Nicole (June 4, 2015). "Google makes its case for VR by reinventing the field trip". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved June 12, 2015. 
  17. ^ Robertson, Adi (May 28, 2015). "Google has a new Cardboard headset, and it supports iPhones". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved June 12, 2015. 
  18. ^ Stein, Scott (June 2, 2015). "Cardboard for kids: Google's bet on the future of VR is children". CNET. Retrieved June 28, 2015. 
  19. ^ Ziegler, Chris (November 13, 2014). "Volvo is using Google Cardboard to get people inside its new SUV". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved June 2, 2015. 
  20. ^ Baig, Edward C. (February 13, 2015). "View-Master rides Google Cardboard into virtual reality". USA Today. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  21. ^ "For LG's G3, virtual reality is just a bundle away". CNET. Retrieved 25 September 2015. 
  22. ^ "NYT VR: How to Experience a New Form of Storytelling From The Times". New York Times. November 5, 2015. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 

External links[edit]