The promise of Virtual Reality (VR) has never really panned out the way pundits expected it would, but it remains an intriguing niche technology that often totters precariously close to mainstream acceptance. The Oculus Rift is the latest headline-grabber, but, it remains overpriced and (in my opinion) underwhelming.
Recently, there a new market emerged in open source cardboard enclosures that combine your smartphone and a pair of biconvex lenses to produce the first truly entry-level and easily accessible VR set. The best in class (if that term is even appropriate for something made of cardboard you wear on your face) seems to be the Dodocase.
There was a large of stack of these for sale when I was in Barnes and Noble last night, and they run about $25/each (you may be able to find some cheaper online). It’s worth noting that at this point there are only a handful of VR apps in either the Android or iPhone market, but all the ones I’ve found are free and fun to play around with. If you’re feeling ambitious, there’s Developer Documentation on the Google Cardboard site, to assist in programming your own Android apps.
A few caveats before you get started: a little DIY hacking is in order if you wish your raw cardboard headset to remain sturdy and hospitable and approximate the comfortable accommodation of human heads. Using some electrical tape, felt pads, or Sugru to shield contact points is a great idea, not just for comfort, but also because cardboard is easily besmirched in gross unsightly ways by our sweat exuding noggins.
That being said, you will not find an easier, cheaper, or more user-friendly approach to VR on the market, and I could definitely see patrons coming in to try it out if presented with the opportunity. Good luck and if you do try it out, I’d love to hear about your experiences with it!