Google Cardboard started as a tongue-in-cheek response to the expensive Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headgear. Like a smartass, Google said the same experience could be provided using a smartphone, some cardboard, and two lenses. They even offered instructions for free. Being a fan of anything smart-ass, I ordered one. Pre-made kits are available for the not so crafty. Iamcardboard.com sent me mine for $16 and off I went into the virtual realm. To my delight- THEY WERE RIGHT. Sort of.
It wasn’t exactly a Holodeck experience that would make Jean-Luc Picard enviously update the Enterprise’s operating system to Android Lollipop, but it was surprisingly immersive. The apps at this point are in their infancy, kind of “look what we can do”, yet still impressive. You can fly a plane, tour a museum, test-drive a Mercedes, shoot virtual asteroids, and kill zombies all in glorious 3-D. They aren’t very polished yet, but it’s easy to see the potential when developers get moving. Call of Duty in HD VR anyone? Even better, the possibilities extend far beyond gaming. There is a fantastic integration with Google Maps Street View and Photosphere. In addition, real estate companies, auto dealers, and hotels already have apps out peddling their wares in Virtual Reality. Sadly, I’ve yet to find a virtual Taco Bell experience.
With headphones, the experience is authentic enough to make you forget you have a box on your face.
The first app I tried was Cmoar Rollercoaster. Wow. The sense of speed and height are there convincingly enough that my stomach actually dropped and I got a little nauseous. There is also a badass DRAGON flying around – until it eats you suddenly to end the ride. Really cool, except for later, when it scared the sh*t out of my 5 year old daughter and got me yelled at by my wife because “SHE’S TOO YOUNG FOR THAT! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!”
I was immediately hooked. It was late, but I had to have more. I found a game called Zombie Warfare. Shooting zombie strippers and bus drivers in 3-D? Sign me up. It requires a Bluetooth controller, which makes holding the Cardboard a problem. Without hesitation, I cut the waistband off of some underwear and fashioned an adjustable head strap using some Velcro strips. I also added foam padding for extra comfort/shame. Soon I was stumbling around banging into sh*t. This woke my wife. She found me shirtless in the kitchen, mid-zombie killing, with cardboard strapped to my head via underwear. I’m sure this turned her on incredibly but somehow she managed to restrain herself even after the foreplay of having her try on my makeshift head strap. Speaking of sex…
Then there’s the porn. After seeing a YouTube video of people reacting to watching VR porn, I had to check it out. Strictly for educational purposes of course. I found some movie samples and prepared to get my mind blown or at least the Weird Science version of Kelly LeBrock. Instead what I got was a frightening tattooed man on top of me beating my newly acquired vagina like it ate the last of the Nutella. What I didn’t know was that some videos are made from the woman’s perspective. That’s cool if that’s your thing, but for me a 3-D money shot to the face is not on my bucket list. Next! The second video was again a woman’s POV, only this time they M. Night Shyamalan’d me with a twist ending: I was a squirter. Well done Internet, but NEXT! Finally, a girl appeared dancing enticingly in front of me with her business all up in my face so close I could almost smell the exploitation. It was kinda awesome and kinda pervy. It has one major flaw; the virtual world robs you of your real world sight. Getting caught watching it would seem inevitable. That’s a big problem for a discreet date with “Palmela Handerson.” I did come away with a new appreciation for what women endure during sex. That dude was so…angry.
For under $20 dollars, Google Cardboard is a must try. A small investment for the “wow” factor and a glimpse into the future of entertainment. The only downside for me was the durability (it’s cardboard), ruined underwear, and an unwanted penis or two. For something that started as a joke, Google did pretty well.