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Google unveils VR gadget

Google reveals Cardboard at I/O 2014

Google has unveiled its latest collection of technology at I/O 2014 in San Francisco.

The annual developer conference is Google’s opportunity to announce its latest products and plans for the coming year. Despite two interruptions from protesters holding signs reading “develop a conscience”, I/O 2014 has not disappointed attendants who held high hopes for Google’s latest pieces of ingenuity to be revealed.

Google steps into virtual reality

Long held rumours that the search giant has been working towards expanding its presence in the wearable technology sector were confirmed yesterday, when Google pipped Apple to the post by becoming the first to release a smartwatch. LG’s G Watch, Samsung Gear Live and Moto 360 models are all currently running Google software.

However, the revelation that got attendees excited was Google’s foray into virtual reality, rivalling the Facebook owned Oculus VR. In recent years, developers and the press have been given the firm’s latest tablet and laptop, 2014’s output was Cardboard – Google’s innovative gadget to give Android customers a glimpse into the virtual world using just their smartphone and some cardboard.

How does Cardboard work?

The simple kit consists of magnets, Velcro, an elastic band, an NFC tag and cardboard – once the DIY VR head piece has been assembled using the specific instructions that come with the Google Cardboard set, users must download its partner app to access the full set of features.

The elastic band and Velcro hold your Android in place, while two plastic lenses built into the face of Cardboard have been specifically placed to distort your phone’s screen so that it appears to wrap the image around your eye. On launching the Cardboard app, the tutorial instructs the user to “Turn your head to look around the app” and “to select an item, slide the magnet down then let it go”.

This simple, in-built dual magnet button acts as a sensor to the Android secured within the head piece and enable the user to navigate the 7 experiences that are currently included within the Cardboard app.

Google stated on the project’s page: “Virtual reality has made exciting progress over the past several years. However, developing for VR still requires expensive, specialized hardware… Thinking about how to make VR accessible to more people, a group of VR enthusiasts at Google experimented with using a smartphone to drive VR experiences.”

Adrian Mursec, senior developer at theEword said: “Google has always been about thinking outside the box, and Cardboard has real potential to make a big impression in tech if it’s a hit with the I/O crowd. Virtual reality is an area that a lot of big companies are investing a lot of money and resources into at the moment, particularly Facebook’s multibillion-dollar purchase of Oculus VR earlier this year.”

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