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Mobile Working

An excited IDG Connect team plays with a Cardboard VR headset

We might be a bit late to the party, but nothing can stop the Virtual Reality-based excitement here at IDG Connect. Only a day after they hosted a Virtual Reality-enabled conference, our free Cardboard viewer from PlusOne arrived. Sure, it had been slightly bent in the post [image 1], but nothing could ruin our excitement.

A quick look at the three-step guide [2] and we’ve got a fully-built Virtual Reality Cardboard device [3]…for all of three seconds. We’ve (read: I) managed to rip off the Velcro designed to hold your phone device of choice in place [4]. Disaster. You know something is good quality when the Velcro is stronger than the glue holding it together. Still, it was free, can’t complain too much.

Slightly crestfallen, we finally get round to downloading some VR apps – free of course since Cardboard is democratizing VR for the masses. Or rather try to. As the owner of a Windows Phone, lack of apps should be a fact of life by now. Of the few that could be found, finding ones that didn’t crash my Lumia 635 was a challenge. Ok it was impossible. Sigh. To the iPhone then.

Despite the iPhone 5 not exactly fitting very well, the App Store has a bigger range of options when it comes to VR apps. Sharks VR [4] is an underwater exploration simulator thing that is surprisingly light on sharks, but acts as a nice introduction of how immersive VR can be, while Moorente [5] is basically a 3D version of Duckhunt without the laughing dog who mocks you. It’s good for a quick laugh but not exactly a game-changer. So far, so ok.

Finally we move onto Android via a Samsung S4. There’s high hopes since this format is Google’s baby. Sadly it didn’t happen quite that way. The Cardboard app [9] is pretty solid – there’s a few different options catered around maps and tours, some 3D museum exhibits, and an animated short [11] which I’m told is “cute and vaguely entertaining” but then decided to stop working before I got a go. There’s no shortage of apps on the Cardboard section on the Play Store, so we try a few at random.

Lamper VR: First Flight [9] is probably the most solid of all the apps we’ve tested. A nicely presented take on those missile tunnel games, it’s a nice bit of fun. Stereogram for Cardboard 2.0 [8] could have been great - there’s a reason Mattel are working on a VR View-Master - but this app is little more than a glorified slideshow of some old Victorian-era photos, and completely misses the point of VR as an immersive experience. VR Roller Coaster [7 - not to be confused with Roller Coaster VR, which failed to load] does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, and is faintly reminiscent of the kinds of demos people use on the Oculus Rift when you’ve never used it before and make you feel sick.

After going round the office touting VR experiences, we got a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” but after a few minutes the wow factor wears off. The button on the side was so hit and miss you often had to get the phone out of the headpiece and just press the desired button.

So our verdict? It’s impressive that you can get this kind of functionality on a phone and a (relatively) cheap bit of cardboard when the likes of the Ocuclus Rift are going to cost a fair whack and demand a decent computer to power it. But for now the experience is a nice novelty, and little else.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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