Late July of this year, Google released their first Google Cardboard virtual reality (VR) headset. Two months later I was introduced to the cardboard device by a member of the LimeGreen design team. And then again in late September in Chicago, I attended a Google-hosted technology and innovation gathering at the Soho House, at which each attendee walked with their own cardboard viewer.

I was hooked from the first moment. Our team had ordered a cardboard online and been toying with concepts and applications when I saw the curious box and asked (as any first-timers ask), “what on earth is THAT?”. What always happens next is no less than 10 minutes of the veterans watching with amusement as the uninitiated first puts the headset “on”, stands in the center of a room and begins to look up and around for the first time, bubbling with anticipation and childlike awe. That was me the first time and it is just that awesome. Or rather, its obvious potential is awesome.

Google Cardboard is simply an awe-inspiring taste of everything-next. There are other virtual reality headsets that offer more advanced capabilities (such as the much anticipated Oculus Rift), but the Google Cardboard headset is a simpler version that is, for now, just as engaging. It has a fun, super low-tech design that is also inexpensive and eco-friendly. The heart of the Google experience is an app called “Cardboard” which contains a tutorial and seven different example apps: Earth in which you often start in Chicago and using the NFC input, you can start and stop your way through an immersive fly-through of the city (and other cities around the world), YouTube: which places the user in a spherical room of videos in which Google Voice will search and display new “walls” of videos upon command, and perhaps the most visually complete app called WindyDay. WindyDay is a simple scene which showcases the future potential for entertainment and learning, where user finds themselves in a forest and watches-no, experiences a 3D scene which involves the simple story of a hat in which a mouse and squirrel find various amusements. (When we tested this with a two year-old recently, this was her favorite). The key change here is the experience. The user is actually in the scene and has the freedom to look at anything, anywhere, in 360 degrees while watching what would classically be the “screen”. But it’s all around you. It’s hard to describe. As one key example of how this has already been applied for audiences, Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto released the first feature film to use this format, Banshee Chapter, which utilizes the Oculus Rift and utilizes head tracking to allow the user to experience not only what is in front of them, but also what might just be waiting in the periphery as well!

How can we see Google Cardboard being used in the near future? From a business perspective, we are exploring how we can utilize immersive experience technology to bring brand experiences to life. Virtual Reality (VR) technology has the power to showcase the world at one’s fingertips. Traveling, sightseeing and entertainment will soon be fully experienced from your chair and has the power to fundamentally change the way marketers engage with consumers. As marketers, we are constantly creating innovative ways to engage consumers, capture attentions and enhance brand experiences. Now, with simple and inexpensive technology we can begin to conceptualize new dimensions in those experiences. The next few movements in the technology will see an explosion of new applications as companies and brands explore how to best appreciate and activate 3DVR.

Google Cardboard LimeGreen “Hybrid”

Google Cardboard LimeGreen “Hybrid”

Finally, how can I experience Google Cardboard? If you are considering a great holiday gift, the Google Cardboard is an easy choice. Currently slightly more targeted at Android devices, however, there are applications for the iPhone as well and either device will work. Order a set online for $10-$40 from one of various suppliers. We recommend the version which Google showcases in the demo HERE.  We tried a few versions at LimeGreen, including the DODO Case and building our own from available instructions (WARNING: unless you have 4 hours to waste after which you will buy one anyway, do not consider this option). And we upgraded to a $39 plastic viewer, however it did not include the essential near field communications (NFC) input, so you may find yourself making your own from a hybrid of different systems as we did (pictured). Bottom line: save the money, order a cardboard version online and you’ll be on your way! And you’ll be experiencing what we all have for the first time: awe, wonder and excitement at a glimpse into a new world of experiences to come!

Update: The new Jaunt Paul McCartney concert released the day after our post and showcases a song from the concert utilizing the new technology. Watch it via Google Cardboard or Oculus Rift here!