The future promise of VR headsets is immense, but perhaps the biggest impediment to their wider adoption is the lack of actual content you can watch on them. To its credit, Google’s really pushing hard to solve the problem. It’s latest effort is Cardboard Camera, which makes taking a 360 degree snapshot a breeze.
Using Cardboard Camera is super easy. Pick a spot with nice scenery, hold your phone in portrait mode, press record, and spin around in a circle. The app directs you and gives you cues if you're spinning too quickly. It takes about 20 seconds to capture an actual photo. You have the option of capturing and embedding sound or not into each image.
This isn't Google's first foray into VR content production. Over the summer it launched a end-to-end system called Jump, which included a design for a 360 camera rig. You can actually buy a prefab version of the rig straight from GoPro if you want. The idea is to make an accessible semi-professional rig that could jumpstart (get it?!?) production.
For its limitations, something like Cardboard Camera might actually be more important than Jump for getting people excited about the possibilities of VR. Remember, it wasn't professional content that made web video huge -- it was crappy YouTube videos. If you send someone a photo from your vacation, or from a party, they might actually wilfully suffer the inconvenience and expense of strapping a screen to their face.