Want to experience what VR can offer, but don’t fancy spending hundreds on a top-of-the-range headset? Luckily, there is a far cheaper option: your iPhone.
Thanks to their high definition Retina display and quad-core processors, iPhones are fully capable of giving you a Virtual Reality experience. All iPhones from the iPhone 5 onwards are compatible with Google’sCardboard VR system. Cardboard, which is very nearly as simple as the name suggests, consists of a piece of specially cut cardboard and a pair of lenses which help to focus your eyes on the phone’s screen. Arriving as a single piece of flat cardboard, all you need to do to get going is follow the three easy assembly steps, download a Google Cardboard-enabled app, then insert your iPhone.
Despite the simplicity, and its £15 price tag, the Cardboard offers a surprisingly immersive experience. Cardboard-ready apps split the display in half, while the headset splits the screen, sending a separate image to each eye. A pair of specially-designed lenses mounted in the Cardboard help you to focus on the screen, and create an illusion of depth and space around you. Meanwhile the accelerometers and sensors – which usually tell your phone which way up you’re holding it – are used to track your head movements, so you can look around and experience a full 360 degrees.
But what can you do with Google Cardboard on your iPhone? The possibilities are all but endless. Google Cardboard apps come in all sorts of varieties, from stomach-flipping rollercoaster simulators to clever 360 degree camera apps that let you create, save and share your own virtual environments with friends. There are games of all kinds, including adventure, action, shooting, and sports, instantly transforming your iPhone into a Virtual Reality arcade.
As you’d expect, Cardboard does have some limitations compared to other VR headsets. While the iPhone’s accelerometers do an impressive job when tracking the movements of your head, they can’t track its position like more expensive sets. This means that if you perform actions like ducking or leaning, the Cardboard won’t be able to tell. There is also nothing beyond basic interactions with your environment, which means you can’t easily manipulate objects or otherwise directly affect the virtual world. However, despite these limitations, Cardboard is well worth trying, and offers a cost effective way to experience the VR revolution for yourself.