When Charlotte Ward tried out Google’s cardboard virtual reality headset she was pleasantly surprised.

Written by Charlotte Ward
Third year Environmental Science BSc
Last updated

18011628314_a1a1a7d8d9_zFancy a low-cost virtual reality experience? When my friend handed me Google’s new virtual reality  headset, I was pretty doubtful I was going to get a decent virtual reality experience from what looked like a set of origami cardboard goggles. However, I really rather surprised.

This headset is made from cardboard with two biconvex lenses, and has a slot in the front for a smartphone. By downloading the YouTube app, selecting a 360° video to watch and clicking the VR headset icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the video, you can simply slot your phone in the headset and look through it. The app then splits the video in half and along with the new 360° videos that are around, you are now able to experience the “virtual reality” that the gadget creates.

'By choosing any 360° video on YouTube you can be riding a roller coaster one minute and walking on safari the next, all in your own living room...'

After my mum had tried it, squealing about being on a roller coaster, spinning around, and almost falling over, the novelty did not seem to wear off. By choosing any 360° video on YouTube you can be riding a roller coaster one minute and walking on safari the next, all in your own living room. The design is lightweight as it is made out of cardboard and can be easily folded away and transported. The only thing which may let it down is the quality of the video and whether or not you have an Android or iPhone. With slow internet or a low definition video, the realism of the “virtual reality” experience could be compromised. In addition to this, as far as I can tell, it does not work with the iPhone YouTube app. You can, however, download the Google Cardboard app through the App Store, which does provide you with experiences such as walking around a museum or past the Eiffel Tower, whereas Android gives you the ability to use any 360° video on the YouTube app. Nevertheless, considering this handy cardboard “gadget” is only £9.99 and you could probably make one yourself if you wanted to cut the cost, it’s not a bad alternative to the very costly virtual reality headsets on the market at the moment.

These 360° videos on YouTube took off last year and are increasing in number. They allow you to move your phone left, right, up and down and see as though the phone is a window into the video world. Soon enough there will be plenty of 360° videos and virtual reality experiences for you to try in the comfort of your student bedroom. The 360° videos are also becoming easier to create yourself by filming different angles from the same spot and using various apps to stitch the footage together.

Overall, I would recommend trying one out for yourself, or even considering giving it to your mates as a gift. Although the graphics might not be perfect, you can add some imagination to your £9.99 and be skydiving and watching stingrays swim over your head in no time.

You can purchase your own VR Cardboard Headset from the Google Cardboard website, or get a similar pair from Amazon.co.uk by various sellers.

Some more 360° You Tube Videos to try using your android smart phone YouTube app – click on the titles to open these separately: