The Poor Man’s VR

Google Cardboard. A throw-away bit of tech? Or something more?

The Lawnmower Man, the 90’s b-grade classic, is for many, the first look at the concept of Virtual Reality. Drawing inspiration from a short story by Stephen King and while filled with some laughable inaccuracies and an even whackier plot, the movie takes a pretty decent stab at conceptualising VR, even if it did leave me fearful of technology falling into the wrong hands for most of my childhood.

Fast track to 2016 and there are some big moves planned for VR and even bigger names in the industry all about to drop their latest product on the market. At the price tags they’re proposing, it’s a purchase reserved for those with serious cash; the avid gamers; the tech enthusiasts; the Apple watch consumers alike, sadly alienating the vast majority of people who are yet to even experience the magic that is VR.

 A throw-away bit of tech, a gimmick or a mere appetiser to the more serious contenders?

Re-introducing Cardboard.

It’s nothing more than some corrugated cardboard, a pair of plastic lenses and a few bits of velcro, that when combined with either an Android or Apple device, transforms into a nifty little VR headset. Referred to as the poor man’s cardboard by some, Google Cardboard, is so much more than that. It’s indicative of what’s to come.

We wonder whether Cardboard, although old news now, has been somewhat overlooked as a throw-away bit of tech, a gimmick or a mere appetiser to the more serious contenders.

But what has Google done by introducing the world to Cardboard? For many of us, it’s left us with a serious appetite for something more powerful and more immersive. For the vast majority, however, it has done nothing short of open a portal to a world of infinite possibilities. Cardboard’s small price tag has made VR accessible, giving one a glimpse into the future, all for under R300. And we think that’s pretty powerful.

Cardboard’s small price tag has made VR accessible, giving one a glimpse into the future, all for under R300.

And to think we’ve had the technology that makes VR a possibility for the longest time, in our back pockets. Which makes us wonder about what’s next and more importantly who will make it. With the accessibility of open source technologies and things like the Arduino and Raspberry Pi, who’s to say that the next big thing won’t come from a kid who’s just graduated from playing with Lego.

So, what’s next?

We’d like to see the VR being used in spaces and ways where technology can have the greatest impact. We’re bound to see loads of applications within the medical space for example, as it has the potential to transform the healthcare industry is we know it. From exposure therapy to stress management programmes,  within mental health care, to practical applications within the education and training sector. There are so many avenues to explore other than within the gaming industry.

Do you think the future of VR is as exciting as we think it is? Have some cool ideas of your own?  Tell us!