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Google Cardboard (developers.google.com)
712 points by rburhum on June 25, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 127 comments

It's very cool that they are doing this. But, for anyone who tries it, there's something very important to keep in mind: Low latency is critical to VR! Unfortunately, Android sensors and graphics pipelines have very poor latency. If you try this and get terrible motion sickness, don't dismiss VR as a vomit inducer.

In fact, many people have reported that spending time in VR, and taking a break whenever motion sickness creeps up, actually reduces motion sickness outside of VR. As in, people are saying "After playing in my Rift for a few weeks, I can suddenly read in the car for the first time!"

> In fact, many people have reported that spending time in VR, and taking a break whenever motion sickness creeps up, actually reduces motion sickness outside of VR. As in, people are saying "After playing in my Rift for a few weeks, I can suddenly read in the car for the first time!"

Is this because the VR experience is causing your brain to recalibrate your vestibular system [1]?

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestibular_system

More than likely. Our brains are very adaptable, it would appear this is more similar to how people have been "recalibrated" to chronic pain and extreme phobias.

The chronic pain example is that a prolonged duration (about 2 weeks) of being free of pain medications can cause the body to adapt and recognize it's over-interpreting pain.

The extreme phobia was if you had someone with a severe phobia of snakes, you would put them into a room with a few dozen snakes in cages and lock them in until they recalibrate as their body can only stay in panic for so long. However... it isn't the most ethical way as it actually is possible to suffer heart failure from fear.

Mirror boxes as a way to treat phantom limb issues are somewhat related to the idea of the body "recalibrating":


> The chronic pain example is that a prolonged duration (about 2 weeks) of being free of pain medications can cause the body to adapt and recognize it's over-interpreting pain.

Yeah, but the pain never really goes away, though. But the time effect is definitely true.

I've had two low back surgeries, and I can attest that you simply "get used to it."

I've heard of the phobia method, as your body eventually exhausts its adrenaline stores and you're able to address the issue more rationally instead of under physiological duress.

I had not heard about the chronic pain example though; thank you!

> I've heard of the phobia method, as your body eventually exhausts its adrenaline stores and you're able to address the issue more rationally instead of under physiological duress.

If you're talking about Adrenal Fatigue, then that's pseudoscience not backed by the medical community[1] (though you will find plenty of "solutions" for it on the internet, for your money of course ;) ).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrenal_fatigue

I think you can train it in general. Astronauts, for example, usually get over zero-g sickness after a while, and flying in small planes makes you less sensitive to turbulence.

And if so, could we use VR to help people with vestibular disorders?

After I had a bad concussion, one of the biggest things that helped -- with a multitude of post concussion syndrome symptoms, not just vision/movement -- was vestibular therapy. It consisted of things like having the word "dog" on a sheet of paper on a wall and keeping my eyes focused on it while turning my head left and right to a metronome. Once I got better at that, we'd either increase the speed or add "distractions" like having "dog" written on black and white checkered boxes.

But more related to what you're saying, there are actually therapy systems that use multiple displays to simulate things like walking through a grocery store. Some people after a concussion can't even go through a grocery store because all the stimulus of different boxes plus movement overwhelms them. An even simpler thing I did was simply to watch youtube videos of people walking through areas with a shaky camera or a dashboard camera from a car driving at night (dealing with other cars' lights). So if those 2d versions are effective, perhaps VR can also help.

It appears that it is entirely possible.

There's hardware for that: http://www.framiral.fr/eng/multitest.php

Designed for military training, this type of device is now available for civilian treatment.

Must be cheaper to use an Occulus though.

Hopefully not recalibrating it to "ignore" your vestibular system..

I suspect it's more like "decoupling" vision and vestibular system.

"Recalibrating" here may mean just learning to ignore it.

I really think this is better describe as habituation.

> Android sensors and graphics pipelines have very poor latency.

I'm not familiar with the sensors latency but the graphics pipeline certainly doesn't have "very poor latency". If you aren't dropping frames the app is just running in double buffering. Android then adds a single extra frame of latency as it doesn't "race the beam" so to speak, so the grand total latency added by the system in the graphics pipeline is 16ms. Aka, pretty damn good.

I haven't seen any data whatsoever one way or another about sensors, so got a source on that? I've seen much about touch latency, but that's the hardware not Android (and on a Nexus 5 the touch latency clocks in at about 20ms - closer to fan-fucking-tastic than "very poor")

John Carmack talked about latency issues in modern graphics pipeline in length: http://www.altdev.co/2013/02/22/latency-mitigation-strategie...

16ms is way too long for VR.

Seeing as nobody has a VR system with lower than 16ms latency, we honestly truly don't have any idea what lower than 16ms even feels like, much less are in any position to assert that 16ms is "way too long".

Michael Abrash (Valve, Oculus): http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/abrash/latency-the-sine-qua-n...

John Carmack (Id, Oculus): http://www.altdev.co/2013/02/22/latency-mitigation-strategie...

Both of them have done testing with custom very low latency systems.

Game developer here: 16ms is the magic number in frame rates as it means you're hitting 60fps, which is about the same as the human brain's visual refresh rate.

Did you try it? The latency was actually pretty decent, though I don't have a the full headset to try it sufficiently. I am sure it is nothing near something like the Rift, but it's a neat proof of concept to start getting the VR idea out there.

That last bit is really interesting. If it works, it would be worth it for me just for the that effect, even ignoring the potential fun and amusement.

VR will finally become mainstream when someone fully leverages its motion sickness inducing potential, and develops an effective weight loss system.

I wonder if it would help deal with seasickness.


I believe there are different things causing the nausea in those two cases, so that wouldn't be a concern.

There's extreme variation among humans anyway. Some people hurl at the slightest touch. Some people can withstand severe turbulence with their head down and not feel a thing. Moving towards that end of the spectrum won't hurt you any more than those people already experience.

Seems like Google copied this idea:


I actually built something similar myself in December 2013 for iPhone, using just some cardboard and a couple of magnifiers I bought in a book shop the same day. It works surprisingly well, and I was really proud of myself.

... Afterwards I discovered Refugio, and I realized it wasn't a new idea at all. Now it is Google's idea.

Oh, forgot to mention that Smartphone VR-cases are not that new too:

http://www.durovis.com http://www.vrase.com

The lenses used for the Cardboard were from Durovis. Google (@ I/O) also used the Durovis Dive to demo Project Tango.

It's actually more like a victorian stereograph, an idea from about 150 years ago.

Related: The Fisher Price Viewmaster


Fisher Price should release a version that takes a smartphone instead of a picture disc.

or maybe one with a USB port or SD slot.

Eh. Only if you want the price of that Fisher-Price VR viewer to jump from $20 (plastic housing and a couple of lenses/magnets) to $500.

Also, from the same lab (MxR at USC's ICT) where Oculus originated [1]: http://projects.ict.usc.edu/mxr/diy/fov2go/

[1] "Spun out of MxR’s VR2GO and HMD prototypes, the Oculus Rift is the single most anticipated piece of VR technology to date." http://projects.ict.usc.edu/mxr/diy/

Right. I remember seeing those too.

In any case, not really fair if Google gets full credit for this.

If anybody is wondering about the 3D. I build a simple stereo-image OpenGL landscape app, and used the gyroscope of the iPhone 5 to determine view direction.

It is actually really simple, and the lag really isn't that bad.

The biggest problem is that you can't really do anything without a controller.

Palmer Luckey's been pretty blunt about it: http://www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/292twe/cardboard_a_v...

Yep I saw a German company selling these P2H (phone-to-headset as I like to call them) cases with some SDK as well.

This idea from google is not bad at all and has the added advantage of most likely better software support, however I would prefer the files for a CNC cutter so I could make one from wood or plastic that way it can be used more than once without the obvious wear and tear of cardboard.

No reason to assume they copied anything. Parallel near-simultaneous invention is getting more and more common. There are many people simultaneously inventing.

I just tried it; the latency is much higher than the Oculus Rift but it's still enjoyable. The demo app mainly has you flying around various places on Earth, but this comes with an SDK for further development.

I watched some folks in my office put it together and there was a bit of confusion as to how it was supposed to assemble (also reflected in some comments here as well).

The three biggest annoyances of the setup are:

- Higher latency

- Uncomfortable on the face (cardboard edges rubbing against skin)

- Unable to really fine-tune the focus

With the exception of latency, the other problems might be solvable with some more crafting. In particular, it would be good to put some kind of soft rubber grommet around the edges and then use some sort of head strap so you didn't have to hold it all the time.

Verdict: not perfect and certainly not going to be a threat to real hardware, but it does give you enough sense of presence to experiment.

> In particular, it would be good to put some kind of soft rubber grommet around the edges and then use some sort of head strap so you didn't have to hold it all the time.

Sounds easily fixable with a bit of sugru

I hadn't heard of "Sugru" before, so I interpreted this as a phone-typo for "surgery" and was surprised at your dedication to cardboard VR technology :)

just sneak your finger in and double tap.

For me there was initial confusion, but that completely went away once I found the instructions.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to trigger the magnetosensor on my Moto G.

This is what the Google IO attendees received on their way out of the keynote.

That's a huge cutback from everyone getting laptops or phones.

They also get a choice of LG or Samsung Android wear device, as well as everyone will get a Moto360 when they ship.

I don’t really understand why they do that. Isn’t there more than enough demand? They don’t have to create weird incentives to attract the wrong people! They want people to attend who will actually get the most benefit (knowledge about making things on various Google platforms) from it and benefit Google in turn, not anyone else.

From this comment thread, it appears that giving away free stuff can't please everyone. One comment complains that some cardboard isn't good enough, while yours bemoans Google giving away stuff that's too good.

I think the idea is to get devices in the hands of developers; people that will play with it and report bugs or blog about it, people that will code up a little app to see how it works on a watch, and so on. It does create incentives for people that just want free stuff to go to I/O, but it's probably a lot simpler and cheaper for them to just buy it when it's released. If you're not a developer, is a smart watch with no third-party apps that useful to you? Probably not. Being an early adopter is rarely sunshine and rainbows.

I wouldn't say that this:

> That's a huge cutback from everyone getting laptops or phones.

is a complaint that "some cardboard isn't good enough." Google has been giving away things like phones and laptops at Google I/O for a few years. I think it's reasonable to say that giving away "only some cardboard" is a huge cutback, without commenting on whether that's a good or bad thing.

hahah, I was thinking the same thing. :)

> I don’t really understand why they do that. Isn’t there more than enough demand?

There is. But they also want developers to work on their products. What better way to get them started than to give them away at a developer conference.

There was some HN discussion about this a few weeks ago. It was mentioned that the freebies attract opportunists who just want to acquire gadgets to flip them on ebay. Legitimate developers are crowded out of the conference as a result.

In my opinion, the solution is to put the gadgets in generic packaging and, maybe, if there's enough time, key them to an attendee's badge. Then, the flippers will have to market them as "open box" and "like new".

It breeds good will. People will be going to google io, spending a couple of days only thinking about google and leave feeling happy with their new toys. Also, if there is anyone there not in the android ecosystem they will sure as hell give it a try once they leave with their new top of the line phone.

Its not designed as an incentive to attend, is designed to get devices in the hands of the kinds of people who will attend I/O so that they can develop for them and act as product evangelists.

As long as they keep the value of the devices lower than the cost of attending, that incentive ought to be minimized. I think they may have done giveaways in the past that were worth more than the ticket price, though.

The also get 2 smart watches I think.

They need to randomly not give out freebies that are worth a lot so that people will stop going to these conferences just for the freebies.

It would be neat to have a requirement for going to the conferences, either press or verified developer.

Everyone also got 2 google watches.

Relevant illustration http://explosm.net/comics/2696/

I kinda thought this was a joke at first... something about thinking outside the box.

Has anyone tried it?

Got the cardboard demo app to fire up on my Nexus 4 using a magnet. Waving it around the headphone port seems to trigger the 'switch'. Was curious about how it did motion tracking. Seems all the demos use the accelerometer for tracking. Was sort of hoping they worked out how to use the camera for motion tracking. Now all I need is lenses, an nfc chip, laser cutter, and proper weight to strength ratio cardboard!

> Was sort of hoping they worked out how to use the camera for motion tracking

See Project Tango.

I like to imagine that Google Cardboard is an internal company joke at the expense of Google Glass.

How can this not be some kind of internal sniping?

I did something like this using the open source vnc viewer for android. I had the idea that you could make a 10,000 x 10,000 pixel virtual screen and then use it for programming. You could turn your head and phone would then show a different part of the screen. Also I had it so if you tilted your head left or right it would zoom in or out based on the direction.

It worked well enough, but my phone's resolution was only 1280x800 which is 640x800 per eye. Not enough to really be able to program well.

I just got the quad hd LG G3 though, so I'm going to try it again as soon as I can get a good setup (I'm in hong kong right now so ordering things online is a little tricky). If anyone wants the (hacky) source code, and a brief manual, let me know.

BTW, I just used a hat with cardboard and tape to hold the phone and several pairs of high strength reading glasses worn on top of each other to get the lenses right.

I'm sort of interested in the source code, and what you're up to now, but I didn't see an email address in your profile?

Or this little beauty from the game Metal Gear Acid for PSP: https://greenhillszone.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/solid-eye...

Link is broken. I don't think the finder.cfm link is supposed to be shared. Anyways, I found the correct (I think) lenses on http://surplusshed.com by going to the lens finder link and looking up double convex, 40mm focal length, 25mm diameter lenses. $4.50 each, which is pretty good.

EDIT: The article says to use biconvex lenses, whereas I looked up double convex lenses. The surplus shed website has double convex as a separate search option as biconvex, but wikipedia says they're the same thing? If someone has more knowledge about this I'd really like to know if they're at least "close enough" to use, since I couldn't find any biconvex lenses on the website of the correct parameters.

I'm not thrilled about this company or my order - fair warning below for others who ordered a lens from them.

tl;dr - the site may have autogenerated an account for you with a weak password if you told it to check out as guest.

First - they didn't have an exact lens match, so I tried ordering two sets of close-to-recommended lenses. My lenses arrived today (10 days after my order, which is probably pretty decent) but I only got one of each, not two sets. OK, this was probably my screw-up, but I definitely knew what I needed and remember trying to tweak quantities on my order to get this right. This is probably my screwup but part of me wishes that it wasn't so easy to screwup online retail (yes, by the customer) like this.

But my bigger worry is this! Now that I've got two individual, unpaired lenses, tonight I'm going back to place a new order. I didn't create an account with my original order so I'm checking out again and choosing the "don't create an account" option again when the site tells me I have an account. That's weird because I definitely know I didn't choose to create an account. But I can't check out in without signing in, so I try using the password generation routine I've been using for years. That doesn't work, so I ask it to email me my password and the email I receive tells me my password is "optics".

1) For obvious reasons, it's really, really, really bad to send a username and password together in an email (my username happened to be my email, but the body of the message makes this explicit, too) 2) I definitely did not create that account or with that password - this seems to have generated one "for" me 3) In doing so, it used a really insecure password and I suspect that same default password is in place for other accounts that have been generated automatically and without consent on the site.

I don't really mean to come slam these guys and their site - it seems like a bit of a mom & pop shop for some specialized equipment - but others who've placed an order here should beware.

Not anymore. "The web site you are accessing has experienced an unexpected error. Please contact the website administrator."

Can someone just make the viewer and sell it online? I'm too lazy.

I thought people here might be interested in the precut Google Carboard kit we have for sale, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7947715

Somebody should do a Kickstarter to make and ship copies of this kit for $5 or $10.

You can order one here...


(full disclaimer, this is my company, we make and ship lots of stuff so this will get delivered, unlike some kickstarter projects)

Do you deliver outside the US? http://www.dodocase.com/pages/shipping-and-returns doesn't seem to say at all. UK here, but people all over the place may want to know.

I was looking into this right now, I think it has to be more expensive than that to account for the cost of the lens and magnets.

Poppy is this in plastic (plus a lens splitting mirror so you can shoot 3D video as well). http://www.poppy3d.com/

Really wish I had an Android phone for this. Sat there fumbling with this cardboard in the lobby for 20 minutes.

On my Moto G (which is listed as being 'Partially compatible'), it's nearly impossible to get any of the demos in the app version to respond to the phone's movement. I'm assuming that's down to the lack of gyroscope, which is a bit disappointing.

I'd love to see a version of this without the separate eye-holes that assume stereo vision. Ideally, that version would have a separate NFC tag to identify it as such, disabling the stereo rendering but preserving the VR look-around behavior.

No take on the VR stuff. I was looking through the instructions and admiring how it seemed so plain and someone thought to do this (build this around your phone). Making the instructions easy for everyone etc.

Usually I hate the pages that use pictures and scroll this way and out of curiosity I grabbed the scrollbar and started up and down and it was awesome. I had expected it to jump between a set of images or something, like the scroll wheel had but it was really fluid.

Oh man. Brian May's gonna be pissed. No vertical is safe.

Is it April 1st already? Just joking... Cool concept.

I wonder if it can be done with a Nexus 7...

Edit: damn spell checker...

Where's the code? I see mentions of "open" hardware and software [1,2] but have yet to find any source code.

[1] https://developers.google.com/cardboard/ [2] https://developers.google.com/cardboard/overview

Ha, I made a thing like this back in 1994 or so out of an old monochrome 640x480 laptop screen, a couple of those plastic fresnel lenses and a whole bunch of glue and cardboard. It worked about as well as you'd expect.

I was totally into the Virtual Reality hype of the day. It's funny to think that 20 years later it might almost be useful. Maybe I'll buy an Oculus Rift to celebrate :-)

There are many varieties of OpenDive in Thingiverse . I am glad there is a chance that this might become a commonly used interface. Looking forward to using libraries that support displaying on it.


What is cool: you can also see the 3D image without any aids; just by crossing your eyes while looking at the 2 images. This way you can see the tracking in action.

Their appears a 3th image in the middle which you need to focus on and on both sides a non-depth "ghost" image.

Takes a bit of practice! (Not sure if this is damaging to your eye sight; try at your own risk)

I don't think you'll get the right effect, if you cross your eyes your left eye will see the image intended for the right eye (the lenses don't focus on the opposing image). Still seems to give some sense of depth, though.

It's a sailboat!

The bottom flap is flipping, revealing the inside face in the second frame. It confused me the second time too.

For those at IO - there is a 10AM session tomorrow about cardboard:


Guys has anyone tried using lenses with 50 mm focal length? Does it have to be exactly 45 mm? I measured the distance from the lens area to the screen of the phone and it is 46mm. I was thinking of using 50 mm lenses. Any ideas? Thanks

I'm not sure where to buy the lenses in China. Would these work?


I wonder if these would work http://www.aliexpress.com/item/LED-44-5mm-convex-lens-optica...

They look close. I need something in Australia.

That thing on tabao looks so geeky, I am not sure which is worse the cardboard or the plastic.:)

Yeah, I don't know what the purpose is of the cardboard device on taobao. The logos are for online video services, so maybe it's so you can watch stuff on a small screen but make it feel like you're in a cinema :)

In case it's useful for anyone else:

- Ring magnet 20mm x 4mm: http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=23637980267

- Ring magnet 18mm x 4mm: http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=17740389918

- Ceramic magnet 20mm x 3mm: http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=18786950677

Obviously, I only just ordered these so I have no idea whether these items will turn out to be suitable.

The most important thing is that users must have low latency to make the VR work efficiently... This is a very good initiative taken by Google to let users design their own VR.

I have a problem I try to install it vía Play Store but it says Cardboard demo filme missing :(

Could someone tell me why?


I wonder what the effects this kind of VR stuff has on the health of your eyes.

That's the best use of parallax yet.

has anyone ordered from knoxlabs.com? they seem to be selling it as well.

I am amazed by Google more and more each day.

I'm more amazed by the level of vague content-free comments hero-worshipping Google.

lenses are $250??

They are now listed as unavailable on Amazon in the US. When I looked, the lenses were only about 8 Euros in Europe, so presumably the $250 was some scalliwag attempting to cash in on the Google Cardboard hype.

Could be pricing algorithms gone wild, too. For a really extreme example of this, see: http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=358

There's a website called Surplus Shed that someone else linked. I found 25mm diameter, 40mm focal length double convex lenses for $4.50 each. You can put those parameters into the finder yourself here: http://www.surplusshed.com/lens.cfm

Will code for food?

Ouch, my retinas!

Someone go make the dream of Anil Dash come true:


Cue mass papercut epidemic.

and by everyone they mean anyone who has bought their phone

Or I could just buy a pizza, eat said pizza, and convert the box into this...

> Q: Can I use a pizza box for the cardboard? A: Yes. Make sure you order an extra large.

I'm not sure I'd want to stick my phone into a soaked pizza box though.

Well don't use the bottom half....


Google bosses: "Devs! Quick! We need something cute to cover up something we're about to do or may have already done!"

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