Why buy an expensive virtual reality headset when you could stick your smartphone into a cheap cardboard box? That's the idea behind Google Cardboard. And soon, you might be able to interact with VR worlds using a piece of cardboard, too.
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When Realiteer co-founder Shuo Zhang confronted me at this week's Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Expo, I've gotta admit I didn't believe his pitch. He told me a DreamWorks VFX artist had developed the cheapest VR motion controller ever made... and then he pulled out this.
A cardboard gun with a Rorschach test printed on top. Crazy, right?
Except it turns out this cardboard contraption can be tracked amazingly well by a smartphone camera.
Yes, that's a bubble gun: the idea came to the aforementioned DreamWorks VFX artist when his kid wouldn't stop breaking his beloved toy bubble guns and making a big mess.
There's even a version with a working trigger — also made of cardboard — so you can fire said gun, or grip things. The company calls it RealTrigger.
As humble as it sounds, this idea could solve one of virtual reality's biggest problems right now — the lack of a decent way to get your hands in on the action. Sure, the Oculus Rift will let you see, but you can't touch. The Sony Morpheus will let you use a PlayStation Move motion controller, but we learned at SVVR today that those won't necessarily come in the box. The HTC Vive will use Valve's amazing Lighthouse tracking system, but it's not clear if others will adopt the technology.
Right now, there are a lot of companies promoting their own motion controllers, but game developers don't know if any of them will succeed, so it's still a little tough to bet money on motion at all. But here comes a tiny startup with a motion controller that anyone could print out and use. Controllers for everyone!
Of course, Realiteer has its own agenda too — it wants to get developers hooked on the idea so it can make money licensing the tech. Which, I suppose, is better than asking consumers to foot the bill. But maybe Google or another big VR company can liberate this idea for everyone. We could use a least common denominator when it comes to VR motion control.
In the meanwhile, you can check out the idea at Kickstarter. They're asking for a $US10 pledge to try the basic version for yourself. [Kickstarter]