Dr. Mac’s Introduction to Budget VR Googles

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Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves

Episode #171

 

I’ve been hearing that virtual reality (VR) is going to be the next big thing for almost as long as I’ve been writing about technology, and I’ve strapped more than one VR contraption to my face over the years in the name of research. I don’t remember much about any of them except that every one of them made me sick. I don’t mean I didn’t like them—I seem to recall all of them being kind of cool. But every time I had a bad reaction and became nauseous and sweaty within minutes of donning VR headgear.

It turns out this is a “thing,” at least according to renowned authority Wikipedia. It’s called, “virtual reality sickness” or “cybersickness,” and symptoms may include general discomfort, headache, nausea, vomiting, pallor, sweating, disorientation, and retching to name a few. If it sounds a lot like motion sickness (aka seasickness), it is, but that’s induced by self-motion. Virtual reality sickness, on the other hand, delivers all the ill effects of motion sickness without requiring motion of any kind.

I don’t know why some people can enjoy VR for hours and other, like yours truly, get sick within minutes. I can tell you that I’m usually not prone to motion sickness, though I’ve experienced it a couple of times in smaller watercraft, but never on a cruise ship. So I haven’t a clue why it affects me more than others.

That’s why I’ve avoided VR for the past few years. But now that at least three expensive ($800 and up as far as I can tell), immersive, big-time VR headsets are set to hit the market soon—Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Sony’s PlayStation VR, and HTC’s Vive—I decided to risk the nausea and take another look for you, gentle reader.

Sadly, none of the big-time expensive headsets are out yet. So I went with the next best thing, Google Cardboard, a cheap ($15) VR headset made out of (you guessed it), cardboard. Just insert an iOS or Android phone and use one of thousands of Cardboard-compatible apps and games to enjoy your budget-priced VR headset.

Google’s $15 Cardboard VR headset.

I’m cheap, so instead of the real Cardboard, I bought a knockoff made by Febite on Amazon.com for $10.99.

My $10.99 Febite Google Cardboard knockoff.

It took only a few seconds to assemble and it looks like those old-time plastic View-Master™ stereoscopic viewers, right down to the cardboard clicker button, only it’s bigger and made out of cardboard. In fact, View-Master makes one to the same Google Cardboard standard, and Apple sells it at the Apple Store for $29.99.

I spent countless hours testing more than a dozen free and inexpensive Cardboard-compatible iOS apps, but I’m out of space. So don’t miss the thrilling conclusion next week. (Spoiler alert: Only a few of the apps made me nauseous.)

Resources:

Google Cardboard. $15, or 2 for $25.

Google Cardboard V2.0 Virtual Reality DIY 3D Glasses for Smartphone with Headband - Easy Setup (V2 Black) by Febrite. $10.99

And that’s all he wrote…

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