How Does Google Cardboard Work? The Low-Budget Virtual Reality Experience Is Like Nothing You've Ever Tried

Beyond a small faction of developers and die-hard techies, most are probably unfamiliar with virtual reality. Perhaps you've heard of the Oculus Rift, but you can't really articulate what it is or how it works. This general cluelessness might come to an end soon, however. Google has introduced Cardboard, a virtual reality device that is set to revolutionize the VR industry. But rather than promising the most advanced, cutting-edge technology, Google Cardboard is exactly what its name suggests: a cardboard mount that attaches to your phone. Once you download the free Google Cardboard app, it can deliver a virtual reality experience. And it's precisely this simplistic, low-cost approach that Google hopes will turn the VR neophyte masses into experts — or at least enthusiasts.

At first glance, Google Cardboard looks like nothing more than a first-grader's science project. It's literally a folded-up piece of cardboard that goes over your smartphone like a makeshift case, but that's the beauty of it. Of the variety of Cardboard viewers that retailers are offering for Android and iOS, the majority will set you back less than $30, which is significant when you compare that with the roughly $1,500 price tag of the Oculus Rift. Google's main goal with Cardboard is to make virtual reality accessible to the masses, and $30 is definitely a price that most people can afford. It's essentially the anti-Glass.

If you're curious about virtual reality, you don't have to save up a fortune. Here's how Google Cardboard works.

DIY Cardboard Viewer

If you want to make your own Cardboard viewer, you can download the instructions from the official site, which also lists all the materials you'd need, like cardboard (obviously), velcro, and a rubber band. The instructions include die-cut, laser-cut, and scissor-cut templates, the latter of which looks to be the easiest to make by far. Once you've assembled your viewer, you can customize it however you'd like by adding color and decorations.

Get A Premade Viewer

If you're not exactly the crafty type, fear not. You can always just buy a premade viewer from a variety of retailers. The priciest option is the Knox Aluminum VR Viewer from Knoxlabs, which costs $85. That's still chump change compared to most VR sets.

Download Apps

Once you have your viewer, you're ready to download the official Cardboard app, which allows your viewer to work with other apps. Each of the hundreds of Cardboard apps deliver a unique immersive experience. Some examples? Expeditions takes students on virtual field trips across the globe. Eden River lets you lazily float along a serene river as you pass animals in the surrounding forest. Or, if you're into less peaceful experiences, SpaceTerror puts you on another planet to test your survival skills.

Images: Google (4)